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Carson neighborhood calls on Shell to take action on underground oil

August 29, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An environmental controversy surfaces again in Carson, where the city is locked in a legal battle with an oil giant.

Residents say oil and chemicals are oozing up again from the ground in their neighborhoods. AT&T crews came to look at a phone line and what they found underground was oil, just a few feet below the surface of the Carousel Tract neighborhood.

"I was speechless. I didn't even know what to say because the oil was just oozing out of the sides of this hole," said resident Barbara Post.

Shell Oil Company kept three tanks here from the 1920s to 1960s when it closed in the late 1960s. The 285 homes in the neighborhood were built on top of the tanks. Four years ago, the water control board detected the cancer-causing benzene in the soil at 100,000 times the screening level, plus dangerous methane as well. Neighbors said several dogs developed tumors just by playing outside.

"So many of our dogs -- I had three that died of cancer," said Post.

In 2010, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board advised residents to "minimize contact with soil" in their backyards. Resident Kathy Post blames her health problems on years of gardening.

"Pneumonia started, then asthma started, then a tumor in this leg," said Kathy Post.

In 2010, residents protested alongside activist Erin Brockovich. Last year, the city of Carson joined in their lawsuit against Shell, which is still pending in court. For now, Shell is paying for testing, looking at samples from every home and possibly pumping in new soil.

Residents said that the more Shell tests, the more oil they see coming up. Evelyn Salinas' garage is now full of cracks with what looks like oil deposits seeping up. Residents want to move, but they said selling their homes is virtually impossible now.

"None of the banks will help you at all because of the mess in here," said resident Darlene Wells.

People in the neighborhood believe the only real solution is for Shell to buy all their homes.

"Move us out of here. Make us whole. Give us a neighborhood," said Barbara Post.

Shell did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday.

Eyewitness News received a statement from Shell Thursday:

"On Wednesday, August 29 during a routine excavation by AT&T for utility repairs, a small amount of a tarry substance was found at about 2 feet below the ground in the excavation. Based on the ongoing environmental investigation, the material appears to be consistent with grading and development activities at the site by the developer who purchased the property from Shell in the 1960's. There was no material found at the surface. A sample of the material was collected and is currently being tested. Test results are expected in approximately two weeks and will be provided to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

"In the meantime, Shell will continue its ongoing environmental investigation of Shell's former KAST property under the direction of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. The health and safety of the Carousel residents is a priority at Shell. To date, regulatory agencies including the Water Board, Los Angeles County Public Health Department and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment have indicated that test results do not show any imminent health or safety risks to the residents of the Carousel community.

"Shell remains in compliance with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board's Cleanup and Abatement Order and is working under the Board's direction to develop a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) to address potential environmental contamination within the Carousel community.

"Residents of the Carousel community can contact the Kast Community Information Line at (310) 857-2335 with any questions or concerns."

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