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TOXINS FOUND 1 1/2 MILES FROM SANTA SUSANA LAB.

Byline: Kerry Cavanaugh Staff Writer

WEST HILLS - Builders of a 151-home development have found very high levels of perchlorate contamination near a creek that drains from the Santa Susana Field Lab, officials said Monday.

But consultants hired by Centex Homes said they were unsure whether the chemical is from the hilltop nuclear and rocket-fuel facility or was placed on the property only recently - and, perhaps, intentionally.

A Centex consultant detected the rocket-fuel ingredient at levels as high as 62,000 parts per million in the sediment along Dayton Canyon Creek, about 1 1/2 miles from the lab.

That is 850 times more potent than perchlorate samples taken at Rocketdyne's laboratory, where rocket fuel was spilled onto the soil, and it is nearly 8,000 times the level allowed for residential neighborhoods.

``The only conclusion he's been able to draw is where it's not coming from. It's not coming from Rocketdyne,'' said John Fitzpatrick, project manager with Centex Homes' Los Angeles and Ventura division.

Centex is completing a second report on the perchlorate results and is expected to develop a cleanup plan to remove the chemical contamination. In the meantime, Fitzpatrick has increased security at the site.

State environmental officials concur that the perchlorate findings are unexpectedly high, but they said it was too soon to determine the source of the contamination. Long-term exposure to high levels of perchlorate can lead to thyroid problems.

``We've got a lot of preliminary data here that doesn't make sense,'' said Ray Leclerc, senior engineer with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

But field lab watchdog Bonnie Klea dismissed speculation that the perchlorate was placed there deliberately.

``Rocketdyne is the biggest source of perchlorate in this area, and to think that it's coming from some other place or some other source is ridiculous.''

An aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith said the housing development is on hold until Centex can determine the source of the contamination and show that it has been removed.

The testing was initiated in late May after the Daily News reported that Centex had never tested the land for toxic or radioactive contamination, despite being located 1.3 miles downhill from the field lab.

Activists were concerned that current residents and ones who will move into the development could be exposed to hidden contamination, particularly along Dayton Canyon Creek, where five decades of storm water could have deposited perchlorate and chemicals from the lab in the creek bed.

State environmental officials had expected the Centex tests to come up clean. The Department of Toxic Substances Control supervised a massive perchlorate cleanup at the field lab last year, and follow-up tests within a few hundred yards of the former rocket-making facility showed little or no contamination.

Farther down the creek, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board dug up several pounds of soil in Dayton Canyon Creek and found no perchlorate.

Centex officials said they would expect to see higher levels of perchlorate closer to the field lab if the lab was the chemical source.

However, Ali Tabidian, a geological sciences professor at California State University, Northridge, said it's possible that perchlorate, which is water-soluble, flowed down the steep canyon in water that pooled in the flatlands, so that it was left in high concentrations when the water evaporated.

Officials of the Boeing Co., which owns the field lab, said there was no connection between the perchlorate found on the Centex property and the perchlorate found at the field lab.

No matter the source, Fitzpatrick said Centex will remove the perchlorate and continue with the planned development of 151 luxury homes.

``There's no danger to anyone that lives around the property there now. It's a small isolated area, and we have every intention of remediating the property.''

Kerry Cavanaugh, (818) 713-3746

kerry.cavanaugh(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

map

Map:

Dayton Canyon Creek

Perchlorate found in and around creek

Dayton Canyon development

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 12, 2005
Words:657
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