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DOWNTOWN MYSTERY CITY STILL BAFFLED BY OOZING LIQUID.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

Los Angeles officials were still scratching their heads Tuesday as to what caused a mysterious black goo to burble from downtown streets, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of apartment dwellers.

A Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said investigators had yet to identify the ``black tarry substance'' more than 24 hours after it erupted at Olive Street and Pico Boulevard.

But he said there might be ``a correlation'' with a petroleum company water drilling operation nearby.

``The samples we have taken - this was determined to be (a) nontoxin, nonflammable, nonhazard,'' said fire Capt. Ernie Bobadilla. ``We're looking to ID the scope of the problem. This problem is not a simple fix.''

The mystery substance, first reported by residents as a sewage-like smell early Monday, erupted in the 1200 block of South Olive Street, oozing from manholes and buckling the street.

Fire officials reported sidewalks heated to 103 degrees. While initial reports said a historic brick apartment building had shifted a foot off its foundation, Bobadilla said the structure was fine.

Public works officials said they were still investigating what ruined the city street.

``What we need to do is to wait for the water to subside, then have the Bureau of Engineering take core samples'' beneath the street, said Nazario Sauceda, assistant director for the Bureau of Street Services.

``The most important issue - who's going to pay for it? Somebody has to be accountable for this damage, and we will determine that based on this investigation.''

Bobadilla cited a petroleum drilling site two blocks from the 35-unit brick apartments. Laguna Hills-based St. James Oil Co. had obtained a permit to inject high-pressure hot water into old wells to extract residual crude. Officials there didn't return calls Tuesday.

When oil workers ceased pumping hot water Monday afternoon, the ooze onto Olive diminished, and the street began to subside.

``Initially, it smelled like a sewage type of water - or some type of oil operation,'' Bobadilla said.

Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Jose Mendoza, left, helps Manuel Sato fill a bag with a substance oozing from a bulge on a downtown street Tuesday. A Fire Department spokesman said there might be a correlation between the liquid and oil well work being conducted nearby.

Nick Ut/Associated Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 22, 2006
Words:386
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