EPA finds toxins near an Oakland daycare

July 24, 2008 12:27:46 AM PDT
Very high levels of toxic gas have been discovered near some homes and a day care in Oakland. The Environmental Protection Agency says the ground underneath the site of a long-gone metal plating shop is contaminated, and there's a chance the air in nearby homes is as well.

It's a stone's throw from Linda Jenkins' front steps to the empty lot next door, but she remembers when it was Lane Metal Finishers, a metal plating shop. She's lived there since 1951.

"And the smell that came out of there at 5:00 p.m., they would nip those chemicals in the ground and dump out that vat at the end of the day and start with new chemicals," said Linda Jenkins.

The EPA says there are very high levels of those chemicals eight feet underground on that lot and on Friday it will start testing the air inside a handful of adjacent homes and a day care center. Some of the chemicals cause cancer.

Bret Moxley is the EPA's on-scene coordinator, responsible for assessment and response.

"There are chemicals that are present at all plating shops and usually they're very well contained within the operating equipment within the plating shops. This particular plating shop apparently wasn't very careful with their chemicals and released a lot of them," said Moxley.

Jenkins has multiple sclerosis, diabetes and an eye disease called kerataconis - making her blind in her left eye. She says five of her cousins who also grew up there have been diagnosed with cancer, one of them died of it, and yet she's afraid the E.P.A. testing will scare off her tenants.

"But what about for your health wouldn't you like to know?" asks ABC7's Heather Ishimaru.
"Yeah, but at the same time I want to be able to pay Countrywide Bank because everybody knows Countrywide does not play around," said Kasaundra Attaway.

Attaway is worried what the E.P.A. test results could mean for her 4-year-old son who has asthma.

"What do you think you'll do if it comes back toxic?" asks ABC7's Ishimaru.
"I don't know, take the kids to the doctor first and foremost," said Attaway.

The E.P.A. is optimistic a layer of clay on the site has helped trap the toxic gases underground the air testing will begin Friday, with results expected Monday.

Heather Ishimaru's Back Story: click here


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