Escondido bomb house debris hauled off without being tested - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Escondido bomb house debris hauled off without being tested

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By David Gotfredson

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (CBS 8) - There are new questions about the cleanup of the toxic Escondido bomb house. Hundreds of cubic yards of debris were cleared to be hauled away this week without being tested for hazardous materials.

Haz-mat crews were approved to remove up to an estimated 435 cubic yards of debris, ash and soil from the bomb house site located at 1954 Via Scott, according to an environmental report obtained by News 8. The report said none of the rubble would be lab tested for toxins.

County and state haz-mat crews have just about wrapped up their cleanup at the bomb house site. Earlier this week, a county official declared the area safe.

"We're taking every precaution necessary," Department of Environmental Health spokesperson Michael Drake said Monday. "The area's been determined to be clear of any hazardous materials that were in the house."

But a waste profile report obtained by News 8 says the debris and ash from the bomb house was removed without ever being tested.

A check box on the report confirms "no sample taken."

"Well, I'm kind of surprised to hear that," bomb house neighbor Danny Chavez told News 8.

Chavez still has questions about the rubble left behind.

"You want to know what was in there. Is it still harmful for you? Is it going to hurt you in the future? Are chemicals there long term; short term? Is it gone? Is it still there?" Chavez asked.

Instead of testing the debris, officials determined it was safe to haul away based on an old analysis of house fire debris from the 2007 wildfires.

The State Department of Toxic Substances Control issued a statement to News 8 stating, in part:

"DTSC considers the ash and debris from the home in Escondido to be similar to those homes encountered after the 2007 Southern California wildfires, thus the waste will be handled and disposed of at a Class 3 landfill."

As a result, the debris was hauled away to the Otay Landfill and never tested. The Otay Mesa dump normally accepts non-hazardous, residential and construction waste.

Haz-mat disposal expert Neal Langerman told News 8 he's not overly concerned the debris was not tested because most of the hazardous materials probably burned off in the fire.

"I'm a little surprised they didn't get samples analyzed more for public relations, than for scientific purposes," Langerman said.

On the other hand, "By not doing some lab analysis, there is at least room to ask a question," Langerman said. "If they had done the analytical work, there would not have been any room to debate the answer."

Langerman believes the neighborhood is perfectly safe but pointed out the tests would only have taken about two days.

"It could easily have been done without delaying the cleanup," he said. "By loading the ash into containers or bins and putting a tarp over them – and stock piling them either on Via Scott or taking them down to the landfill – you could hold them there until the analysis comes back," Langerman said.

Meanwhile, neighbors just want the clean up to be over, as much as they want answers about toxic materials.

"You have to take their word for it," neighbor Danny Chavez said. "If it is harmful or it isn't harmful, we just got to take their word for it."

County officials did remove some items thought to contain asbestos from the rubble and hauled them away to a hazardous waste landfill this week.

New soil samples were taken Wednesday of the dirt that was left behind at the site. Those samples still need to be analyzed.

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