LA City Council orders testing near former toxic dump site near Lincoln Heights

The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday voted to begin off-site testing of wastewater, storm water and soil near a Lincoln Heights development project following reporting over the weekend about the site's toxic dumping history.

The motion, which was both introduced by Councilman Gil Cedillo and passed by council members Wednesday, cited Los Angeles Times reporting from Saturday about investigators with the District Attorney's Office's former Los Angeles Hazardous Waste Task Force finding 252 barrels filled with toxic chemicals buried at the site in 1984.

The Times also reported that testing at the property in 2021 found that volatile chemical compound levels were more than 4,000 times higher than recommended for residential standards.

"Toxins do not stop at property lines and there is an immediate need to perform further testing. This parcel sits across the street from an elementary school and residential housing," said the motion, which was seconded by Councilman Kevin de León.

The motion noted that one of the compounds found at the property is the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, which -- according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- can cause harm to the nervous system, reproductive system, liver and kidneys and possibly cancer.

Chemicals had been dumped for four years before they were found in 1984, The Times reported. After the barrels were discovered, executives and employees of American Caster Corp., which operated the nearby manufacturing warehouse, served six months in jail and paid thousands of dollars in fines.

Real estate developers, who have agreed to assess contamination at the site, are seeking to build a five-story apartment complex in the warehouse's place, along with space for retail and an underground parking garage. A community member found a 1984 article about the discovered barrels in the Times' archive.

Following news about the chemicals dumped at the site, Cedillo presented a motion during Wednesday's council meeting to begin immediate off- site testing.

"With the site being located adjacent to a residential population and sensitive uses, such as an elementary school, there is an absolute need for us to act today," Cedillo said. ``I have a long commitment in ensuring environmentally safe neighborhoods, from my landmark bill that cleans up California's brownfields. Our continuous commitment to protecting the community's health and safety is a matter of record."

The motion directed the Bureau of Sanitation to immediately lead off- site testing of wastewater, storm water and soil with assistance from the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Department of Building and Safety, the General Services Department and the Bureau of Engineering. The Bureau of Sanitation will also request support from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.