Environmental Health Coalition Weighs in on Recent Chatham Reports

Environmental health experts at Environmental Health Coalition filed this comment letter today on the most recent monitoring reports on the Chatham contamination. EHC Chatham Comment Letter Feb 26 2015.
There is important information about 1,4-Dioxane and it speaks eloquently to several issues we are facing locally.  We are very grateful to EHC to their enduring commitment to community health.

Here are some excerpts

Regarding whether Natural Attenuation is occurring:

“The latest monitoring results do not provide evidence that natural attenuation is occurring.  Increased levels of TCE occur at sampling sites up and down Felicita Creek, including both the northern and southern portions. Not only are the levels not diminishing, this pattern of  monitoring results does not support the Hargis contention that levels in the more northerly part of the creek will diminish first, followed by levels in the down gradient portions of the creek and plume. In fact, these results show neither a short term nor a long term pattern of attenuation in TCE levels. Levels in FC-4, one of the wells in the northern part of Felicita Park, show an increasing trend over the 20-year period from 1994 through mid-2014, as charted in Figure 7 of the Hargis Technical Memorandum of January 16, 2015.
Another well in the northern area of the Park, FC11/11A, shows an increase since the previous round of monitoring in April 2014. Levels of TCE in MW-58 appear to be exactly the same in the most recent results as they were 15 years ago, in 2000, also shown in Figure 7.”
Regarding the length of time of the natural attenuation:

“Not only do these results fail to support the PRP consultant’s theory, the PRP group fails to provide any estimates of how long they expect this natural attenuation process to take. How long are they expecting Felicita Creek and groundwater to remain contaminated? How many more years are they asking Escondido families to be patient while upwelling of contaminants continues into their neighborhood park and their groundwater wells? A generation of children has grown up since the Chatham plume began its migration, and we’re still being told that attenuation will eventually occur. It is past time for DTSC to demand that the PRPs take additional action to remediate the plume, as well as to treat all wells that have measurable levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons or 1,4-dioxane.”

Regarding what the MCL does and doesn’t mean and a preference for the PHGs:

“Finally, we urge DTSC to bear in mind that MCLs are only as health protective as is technologically and economically feasible. They are not truly health protective standards, and it is inaccurate to state or imply that water meeting MCL levels is “safe.” In the case of TCE, which has both an MCL and a Public Health Goal (PHG), we urge you to use the PHG as the basis for decisions to post signs along the creek, and as a cleanup level for creek and well water.”

Regarding health information on 1,4-Dioxane

“Levels of other contaminants are also of continuing concern. 1, 4-Dioxane levels are high in several wells, including an all-time high of 100 μg/l in FC-04, a level 33 times the OEHHA public health notification level of 3 μg/l. This is of particular concern in a location where children may be exposed. 1,4-Dioxane has been listed on California’s Prop. 65 list as a carcinogen since 1988.  Most of the human toxicology of the substance derives from worker exposure; effects of low dose exposure to children are not known. Nor has OEHHA developed a child-specific reference dose for this compound. 1,4-Dioxane exposure can occur through dermal exposure as well as inhalation and ingestion — all plausible routes of exposure for children playing in or near the creek. In short, the possible impacts of exposing children to 1,4-dioxane are not known, and DTSC must act to protect children who visit the park.”

Please read this letter for yourself.  You will learn a lot.

If you are not already a member of this amazing group, please join!  You can find more information here Environmental Health Coalition

FINAL City Council Meeting is MARCH 4, 4:30 pm Last chance to speak out against Oak Creek Housing Development. PLEASE ATTEND

ACTION ALERT  Here is a downloadable version to share with your neighbors and friends.  March 4 Hearing Action Alert

Last Chance to Speak out against
Oak Creek Housing Project

Urge the City Council to Vote NO on Oak Creek

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
4:30 pm
Escondido City Council Chambers
Escondido City Council will make their final decision on the Oak Creek housing development in southwest Escondido.  Oak Creek will build 65 home, gated community in a floodplain on rural open space and farmland adjacent to Felicita Park on the ‘duck pond’ property.  It will annex over 40-acres to the city and build massive homes on compact lots that will encroach on the creeks.  Escondido Neighbors has engaged extensively to try to secure improvements in the project to reduce impacts to wildlife, oak trees, traffic, community character, air quality, water quality, flooding, water supply, contaminated groundwater plume, and cultural resources but improvements have not been made.  In fact, the project was changed and will worsen the impacts. 
Escondido Neighbors United (ENU) OPPOSES the plan for the following reasons: 
·         Project is too dense for the rural character of the area and will have negative impacts on surrounding area and on our beloved Felicita Park.
·         Flooding risks and traffic increases are not adequately addressed or mitigated.
·         Buffer areas between habitat and development are grossly inadequate.
·         Impacts to the mature native trees, creek, and habitat are significant.
·         New homes should not be built over contaminated areas and city should not annex contaminated land.
·         Project allows a minimum development buffer from wetlands of ZERO feet and will irrevocably damage the riparian areas.
·         New proposed project is too extreme a density for this location and community. A more balanced approach should be sought.
·         Project does not adequately avoid impacts to environment and community and the FEIR is deficient in its analysis and mitigation in critical areas.
Help us protect our neighborhood.   OPPOSE Oak Creek as proposed. 
There are better alternatives. Community Alternative
Take Action:                            Attend the hearing on March 4 @ 4:30

Write to the Mayor and Council:
City of Escondido
201 North Broadway
Escondido, CA 92025-2798
Fax 760-839-4313 
Or email:

You can get more information about the project here: http://escondidoneighborsunited.blogspot.com/

Escondido Receives Official Notice of VIOLATION of Storm water Permit from Water Board

There is now even more evidence why the community can not trust Escondido to comply with or enforce environmental laws.

Last week, on February 10, 2015, the City of Escondido received a Notice of Violation (NOV) for violations of municipal storm water permit requirements.  Water Board Cover Letter

The violations include:

  • Failure to prevent the discharge of pollutants per permit requirements,
  • Failure to implement the adopted storm water mitigation plan
  • Failure to adequately enforce permit standards at priority development sites. 

The 4-page NOV notice cites multiple examples of these failures.  The city has failed to fix known problems for years.  In six of seven priority development projects inspected BMPs have been found to be ineffective and/or inadequately maintained.  In some cases  the City has allowed priority development projects (PDP) to be completed with missing permanent treatment BMPs for prolonged periods of time.  In one case 19 inlet filters were to be installed in 2009 but most were not installed until November 2014. The NOV also cites the inquiry involving the 540 W. Grand parking lot, in this category–the parking lot owned by Escondido Mayor Abed.  We have previously raised concerns about this here, Mayor Failed to Comply.

Violations include BMPs that were designed or installed incorrectly, failure to inspect at proper times, ineffective vegetative BMPs, missing storm drain insert filters, sediment overwhelming BMPs, lack of required maintenance, and many other issues.   Even when problems were found, the NOV notes, “The City identified 9 PDPs that had structural BMP violations, but the City issued 0 enforcement actions”   These finally lead the Water Board to the conclusions that the  “The City’s overall program is not adequate to ensure proper functioning of the treatment control BMPs…” The violations are summarized here  Notice of Violation To Escondido and the Water Board Audit Report provide more detail and photos of the violations.  

Specific examples include one case where there was supposed to be a bioswale that would slow water and allow it to seep into the ground,…

  “A concrete v-ditch was found where the bioswale should have been…There were no treatment control BMPs within the v-ditch or at the inlet or outlet of the v-ditch.”  

Concrete does nothing to slow or treat storm water and only worsens erosion, flooding, and water quality.  These kinds of problems are exactly the kind of violations and failure to enforce that, in our case,  puts downstream neighbors at risk relative to Oak Creek.  In other examples, problems noticed by the staff in 2011/2012 were the same deficiencies with the same BMPs found in 2014.  It appears that, even when the city found violations, little was done and no enforcement was taken.  

Here is the mystery.  The NOV states, “While the City seems to be able to identify issues in need of correction, the City lacks an effective enforcement process to resolve the deficiencies and bring the facilities back into compliance with Order No. R9-2007-0001.”  This should be looked into.  Why is the City not enforcing the storm water rules? Who or what is stopping them?  Is this a problem of staff follow-up or is it a failure of the Executive or Mayor and Council to direct?  Or, is it the result of direction being given from some quarter to not enforce?

This is more of the mounting evidence regarding why Escondido Neighbors United has major concerns about the ability, or willingness, of the city to enforce the storm water regulations related to the Oak Creek housing project.  We have been told time and time again that we should be satisfied and that there will be no impacts because the project will comply with regulations.  This has not happened in 6 of 7 examples in Escondido.  Why should we have confidence it would happen at Oak Creek?

These City violations, coupled with eight ‘significant’ violations issued to New Urban West in 2002 of its dewatering permit during construction of Brookside (2002 Report of NPDES Violations ) leave us with no confidence that the rules will be complied with or that our water quality and our local creek will be protected.

It is yet another reason that we cannot support the Oak Creek housing development in the density proposed with its heavy reliance on storm water mitigation and controls.  Apparently, compliance with the rules is not the standard in Escondido and we would be foolish to rely on it.

The obvious question is, does Escondido even deserve the ability to annex more property when they can’t handle the property they already have?

Channel 10 News: Report on Chatham plume expansion

Here is a link to the  Channel 10 News Report: Environmental Group Says Toxic Plume in Escondido has spread tonight. There are questions about whether access was denied to sites for testing or not. Our letter cites the December 12, 2014 consultants report from Hargis and Associates, which states on page 4 that,

the regional well deJong2 property owner did not grant access to the Group for scheduled groundwater sampling in October 2014, or for water level measurement of deJong 2 or 34-E4. (HA, Dec. 12, 2014 report, p. 4, emphasis added)  

We have requested action from the state regulatory agencies.  We will post any responses we receive from them here.

New Chatham Reports: Contamination in Felicita Creek at new high. Plume now south of Via Rancho Parkway.

We are sorry to report that we have very bad news.  We have finally had a chance to review the  January 16 Felicita Creek Evaluation Update and the Semi-Annual Monitoring Report Dec 12, 2014

Escondido Neighbors United filed this letter today with the Department  of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) ENU to DTSC Feb 16 2015 Requesting action on Chatham

In short, collectively, these reports show that results recorded:

·         the highest recorded levels so far of TCE, PCE, 1,2-DCE, and 1,4-dioxane in the creek and
·         the contamination plume is now south of Via Rancho Parkway. 

Further, the fact that owners of wells on the Oak Creek/Homeland site refused access to the consultants for testing is completely unacceptable and undermines the overall assessment.  As is well-known, this area is under consideration for development into homes where families and children will be present.
It is clear the contamination continues expanding unabated and more must be done.   This situation is intolerable and we have all waited long enough.  We are calling on the regulatory agencies to demand more action.
Please review these reports for yourself.  We will keep you posted.