Residents Keep Pressure on Council to Safeguard Against Toxins at Space Bank Housing Development

Council gets an earful just days before a May 14 deadline shuts down public input on a 550-unit East Pasadena development on a toxic former weapons-testing site

Published : Tuesday, May 7, 2019 | 5:44 AM

Sign held by Pasadena resident who wants more complete testing for contaminants and cleanup at the site of a proposed housing development on east Foothill Boulevard which formerly housed a U.S. Naval weapons testing facility. Photo by James Carbone for Pasadena Now

As the extended time period for public input draws to its May 14 close, dozens of worried Pasadena residents spoke the City Council Monday, demanding more thorough soil and chemical testing and cleanup for the site of a proposed 550-unit housing development on East Foothill Boulevard in East Pasadena.

During last week’s Council meeting, a senior manager for developer Trammell Crow Company announced the company would agree to test the site for two additional toxic chemicals, as opponents had asked.

Worried residents told the Council their concerns Monday.

“I don’t want to see children with neurological problems here,” said Pasadena resident Ida Morales, quietly.

“There needs to be a full pre-construction inspection,” said Pasadena resident Ed Washatka, “using the latest technology available.”

“There will be 500 families [living there],” added resident Ken Perry. “It’s a toxic waste site.”

Perry also claimed that the Pasadena City Council had “fast-tracked” the development, but Councilmember Margaret McAustin told the Council Monday, that the Council had used “regular channels” to approve the project, and that it had not received any special approvals.

The State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is currently making preparations for a Removal Action Workplan, called a RAW, which would direct developers Trammell Crow on requirements for testing the site for contaminants, a former US Navy missile and torpedo testing operation.

Pasadena also hired environmental consulting firm Alta Environmental to review the RAW plan and provide comments to the DTSC by the May 14 deadline.

Since the Space Bank discussion was not listed as an agenda item, the speakers made their comments during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette, aPasadena resident and environmental science professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the Council that the RAW report should demand a full pre-construction cleanup, no land use controls, a soil sampling plan, a full site characterization, groundwater testing, and other tests, before any construction is begun.

Meanwhile, Seth Gerdine, a Chino Hills resident, told the Council, “I may be from Chino Hills, but I am here because I do not want you guys to go through what we went through.”

Gerdine was referring to what some have called the ‘Chino Hills Cancer Cluster” and linked to a site in that area at which Aerojet Rocketdyne company developed and manufactured explosives, propellants and munitions until 1995.

According to the March 2019 edition of the DTSC Community Update, there have been 22 environmental assessments and investigations conducted at the Space Bank site since 1976, with 382 soil samples and 157 soil gas samples collected in the investigations.

The chemicals of primary concern, those found with concentrations above regulatory levels, included heavy metals (arsenic, lead and mercury), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (pyrene), volatile organic compounds (including tetrachloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethylene – commonly knowns as VOCs), and petroleum hydrocarbons (including benzene, toluene, and xylene which are present in gasoline) in soil, according to the Update.

A groundwater investigation will also be conducted during the site remediation phase, said DTSC.

“The remediation will involve the removal and disposal of impacted soil and infrastructure, and would include excavation, removal and disposal of contaminated soil and storm drain features, a soil gas survey, and groundwater investigation,” said the Update.

Approximately 1000 to 1200 feet of clay or concrete pipe from the storm drain system will also be excavated along with associated storm drain inlets, catch basins, seven stormwater seepage pits and four locations with elevated levels of either VOCs, petroleum hydrocarbons, or metals contamination, such as mercury, lead and arsenic, according to the DTSC report.

All excavations will be followed by confirmatory soil sampling to ensure that the contaminants are removed, the DTSC reported. Approximately 330 cubic yards of contaminated soil will be transported and disposed of at licensed facilities.

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