now-shuttered property in the 1950s, is preparing to submit plans to the
California Department of Health Services for cleaning up any radioactive
hazards present on the site. The cleanup is estimated to cost $1 million
to $2 million.
According to the department, the decontamination is expected to begin
in late spring or early summer and be completed by the end of this year.
Site excavation, which would bring radioactive material closer to the
surface, could present a safety hazard to site occupants, but "[there] is
no current hazard to surrounding residents," the state agency said in a
Nov. 21 letter to the city.
But some people are concerned that the site is a safety hazard and
should be off limits to the curious.
"I don't mean to be an alarmist and say that people on Lake Street
should move," said former Councilman Ted McConkey about the neighboring
residents. "Until we know better, the danger is people going on the
Although the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission declared the site safe in
1961, a recent federal reexamination of sites in the United States found
problems with contamination under the surface.
A partial survey of the site in September 1999 found there was a
"strong possibility that radioactive waste or material could be buried
beneath the buildings and areas outside the buildings," according to
Health Services documents. In addition, the documents reported that the
survey indicated a radioactive level of 200 in some areas, while "a
person who is exposed to 100 [level] over any period of time would incur
an increased risk of fatal cancer of five in 100,000."
The contamination probably came from companies that made radioactive
products on the site in the 1950s and the early 1960s, according to
federal regulators and state health officials.
State regulators in 1996 notified Joseph Thomson, who owned and
operated Fiber-Resin Corp. on the site for more than 20 years, that he
was responsible for additional cleanup of radioactive contamination on
Thomson maintained previous owners had polluted the property before he
purchased it in 1966 and that he shouldn't be held responsible for the
With the completion of the sale of the property, Thomson was relieved
of his responsibility.
City officials were also pleased with the sale.
"The rainbow is that the company that did the polluting has stepped up
and will be doing the cleanup," Vice Mayor Bob Kramer said. "The bottom
line is that that property will be cleaned up, and that's good news for
The abandoned site includes a 23,000-square-foot building, asphalt
lot, chain-link fence and barbed wire. Trash, dead bushes and shrubs and
debris litter the site, and a few signs warn people not to trespass on
The city has no jurisdiction to post more warning signs or remove the
contamination, City Manager Bud Ovrom said, but the city will try and
clean the trash, debris and dead vegetation on the public property