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Solstice Buildings Contamination Minor

City Releases Draft Report of Structures’ Toxicity


Saturday, March 21, 2009

The city has released a draft report on air quality in the buildings that Summer Solstice Celebration organizers hope to use for a year-round community arts center. The report, completed by Trak Environmental Group at the end of January, showed negligible levels of air contamination in the smaller of the two buildings at 631 Garden St. A person would have less than a one-in-a-million additional chance of getting cancer if they breathed that building’s air 150 days a year for 10 years, according to the report.

However, the sampling showed a slightly elevated risk in the other building - the larger, brick building, referred to in the report as Building No. 1. Whether someone spends 150 days a year there for 10 years, or 90 days a year for five years, the additional chance of getting cancer in Building No. 1 is, according to the report, somewhere between one in a million and one in 100,000.

The calculation of risk purportedly reflects the cumulative hazard from four volatile organic compounds (VOCs)-tetrachloroethene, methylene chloride, carbon disulfide, and 1,3-butadiene-whose concentrations inside the building were greater than in an ambient air quality sample taken upwind. The latter three were found in only one of the three rooms tested in the brick building, while tetrachloroethene was in all of them. The chemical vapors are presumed to be remnants of the decades during which the site was used as a refueling station for the city’s motor pool.

The Independent reported on March 14 that air contamination might defer the dream of a Community Arts Center, quoting City Redevelopment Supervisor Brian Bosse as saying it would take one to two years, or more, to clean the site sufficiently for the buildings to be used as planned. Between 1988 and 2003, the city had removed tons of soil as well as six underground fuel tanks from the site. Then last year, petroleum gas and vapor were again detected in the soil, just as Solstice organizers, with financial backing from the Redevelopment Agency, were preparing to refurbish the buildings. Bosse also declined to hand over the report or its air contamination statistics to The Independent - saying that the report “probably won’t be made public” - but he did so after The Independent filed a California Public Records Act request with the city. A final report is expected Monday, March 23.

Do those seem like reasons to lock the place up?” Patrick Davis, of the Solstice Board of Directors, asked rhetorically when told of the statistics. Some on the board have previously suggested that forces within the city were trying to torpedo the project at that location. “Now that the information is out there, people can discuss it and make their own decisions,” said Davis. “I hope it can be quickly remediated and we can make a community arts center there that really serves the community.”

This story has been amended since its original publication.

Billy Collins & Aimee Mann

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