By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Members of the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday demanded more information about the status of a long-delayed cleanup project on the banks of Santa Rosa Creek downtown.
Regulators have been pressing for 26 years to have pollution removed from the site of a former PG&E manufactured gas plant at First and B streets. The efforts were described in a March 24 story in The Press Democrat.
“From the little bit I’ve read, it raises alarm bells,” Councilman Gary Wysocky said.
He made reference to recent news from Arkansas, where an Exxon pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil from Illinois to Texas leaked, forcing the evacuation of 22 homes.
Wysocky called the Santa Rosa site a “tar ball right next to the creek there,” and said he wanted more information about the cleanup efforts.
“I just think it could be an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
Waste products from the manufactured gas process, including lamp black and coal tar, have been found in significant volumes on the site, as well as leaking underground fuel storage tanks. The plant was dismantled in 1924, the waste products buried, and the property later sold to developers who built a four-story office building on it in 1989.
Tons of contaminated material has since been removed under the direction of the North Coast Water Quality Control Board. PG&E estimates it has spent tens of millions to clean up the site. But much work remains, including the possible construction of a cut-off wall to prevent the migration of contamination into the creek.
The human health risks from the contamination are likely low, given the fact that it is covered by a parking lot and no drinking water wells are in the area, people familiar with the site say.
PG&E says there is no indication any contamination is currently reaching the creek, and it is committed to a cleanup project that is “best for the environment and the community.”
But Councilman Jake Ours said he believed the utility needed to be pressured to continue moving forward on the project.
“If you don’t keep PG&E’s feet to the fire, they won’t do anything,” Ours said. “It’s a very serious problem and it’s going to take a lot of money to fix.”
City Manager Kathy Millison said she had been in touch with PG&E officials and they were willing to provide additional information about the project to the council.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @citybeater.