Carson City Council declares emergency to speed oil site cleanup

CARSON, Calif.

Signs are posted all over the Carousel neighborhood reminding people of the battle to cleanup the contamination in the community. Many residents say they're tired of waiting.

"Shell is playing a game with us and we're going to win this game," said Carson Mayor Jim Dear.

The room was packed Monday when members of the Carson City Council passed a resolution declaring a local emergency.

The city hopes to speed up the cleanup of its Carousel neighborhood. In the 1970's, 285 homes were constructed on top of an old oil tank farm, formerly owned by Shell.

Residents say Shell needs to buy back the land.

"We want out," said Kathy Post of Carson. "Buy our homes, that's all we want, be put pack whole in another house and in a clean environment."

Four years ago, the Water Quality Board detected dangerous levels of methane gas and cancer causing benzene in the soil.

Many residents say they've suffered health problems.

"We both had problems with cancer and stuff since we've been in the tract," said John Randle of Carson.

Activist Erin Brockovich attended the meeting. She says this is an emergency.

"Children cannot play in their yard," said Brockovich. "Years and years have past, now we have a potential where the facility, where the contamination underneath can cause an explosion. And I just don't think it gets more serious than that."

Shell's investigators are testing contamination levels and cleanup isn't expected to begin until next year. The company says the city's action won't solve the problem.

Shell issued the following statement Monday: "The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board), as the lead regulatory agency overseeing this matter, is responsible for determining the timeline for the investigation and the requirements that Shell must address before the cleanup process can begin."

Shell says three regulatory agencies have found no evidence of any imminent danger to Carson residents.

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