Homes sitting atop a former Shell Oil tank farm are left contaminated with oil chemicals
City officials have partnered with 285 homeowners in the city of Carson, CA to expedite a cleanup of an oil contamination, which has led to lawsuits involving cancer, skin rashes and tumors in the Carousel housing tract, which sits on top of a former Shell Oil tank farm.
The oil contamination has been a problem in Carousel since 2008 when tests revealed that the soil beneath these homes contained high levels of benzene and petroleum. In addition to the extraordinarily high benzene levels, the soil has also tested positive for dangerously high levels of methane, leading some environmental experts to fear a massive fireball at Carousel should the gasses ever make it to the surface.
To add more inconvenience, officials from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board instructed residents not to eat fruit or vegetables grown in their yard because of the contamination, in 2010. Residents have also received letters urging them to limit their contact with the soil in their yards.
While the cleanup is not expected for another year, Carson Mayor Jim Dear would like to begin it as soon as possible. He has also proposed that Shell buy all of Carousel’s residents out of their homes before proceeding with the cleanup.
“On a human level, five years is too long for residents to have to wait and still not know if anything is going to be done to protect their health and economic interests,” said Dear. “To me, there’s no excuse for delaying any action.”
President of the Carousel Homeowners Assn. Barbara Post, 80, is happy that this contamination is finally receiving attention, but she fears that she won’t live to see the cleanup completed.
“It has been a long time coming for the city to join in with us,” said Post. “We’re both on the same page now.”
There have been many efforts in previous years to make this oil cleanup a reality, including the water quality board ordering Shell to clean the 44-acre site over two years ago. However, difficulties continue to arise from Shell Oil Company. Dear believes that the oil company is using delay tactics to limit the cleanup.
“Based on results to date, regulatory agencies have indicated no immediate threat to the community,” said Shell Oil spokeswoman Kayla Macke.
A comprehensive plan for cleaning the entire site still has yet to be filed with the water quality board. According to additional community input meetings and a separate environmental review for the plan, the actual cleanup may not begin until 2015.