Dailybreeze.com reports that Shell Oil Co. has found the ground beneath the Carousel housing tract in Carson Ca., to be extensively contaminated with benzene and methane. 

The contamination is thought to stem from shell owned oil reserves operated on the land from the 1920’s to 1960’s. In those days, oil was stored in subterranean concrete lined tanks which are now illegal due to problems with leakage. Today oil is stored in above ground tanks.

Barbara Post, president of the Carousel Homeowners’ Association said:

"Chemicals are a serious matter, we have to trust that Shell is going to take care of it for us."

So far, Shell seems to be reacting to the situation responsibly, but that attitude seems a bit naive. If one must trust Shell to take care of something like this, I would recommend also taking all possible measures toward forcing them to do the right thing.

Oil companies can be counted on to downplay any contamination related issue, here’s a text book quote from shell spokeswoman Alison Chassen:

"We don’t believe that there is reason to be concerned from a safety perspective, but we felt like it was the right thing to do to make sure there were not the same levels detected on residential properties."

No reason for concern? Very comforting I’m sure to for the 275 home owners on the Carousel tract.

Chassen is full of it. There is at the very least, some reason for concern in the area of safety when your neighborhood is found to be sitting on a toxic chemical plume. One such reason is that extensive subterranean benzene contamination has been known release fumes that seep into the structures located over the plume, potentially exposing residents to one of the most carcinogenic substances known to humans. 

Benzene exposure has been linked to debilitating and potentially fatal blood diseases like acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndromes, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The possibility of people contracting these disorders should be of concern from any reasonable "safety perspective."

So far the testing has been done only on public rights of way, Shell is now seeking home owner’s permission to test their yards.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board is overseeing the testing.


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