Bridgeport before the manmade lake: no cause for concern

The Saugus Union School District office. Dan Watson/The Signal

No mold or contamination found in soil, water, according to environmental officials

By Jim Holt

Senior Investigative Reporter

Joanna Joshua pulled her younger son out of Bridgeport Elementary School this past semester, convinced something in the watery Bridgeport landscape was making him ill.

And, whenever she walks onto school property, she says, she believes she’s standing on the source of the problem.

“My concern is the landfill underneath,” Joshua said last week. “I want to know what was in it.”

Are Bridgeport parents really living in a toxic environment? The short answer is no, after reviewing environmental assessments carried out by consultants preparing the state-required environmental impact report and by officials with the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Topping Joshua’s list of environmental concerns was suspicion that mold was making students and teachers sick — but school district officials say that’s not the case.

Mold concerns

In an email sent to “many sources” since December, Joshua asked: “Why is there so much mold in the community and school?”

The short answer again, according to Nick Heinlein, assistant superintendent of business services for the Saugus Union School District: “There is no mold.”

In his letter to parents dated June 1, 2017, explaining tests carried out in response to concerns raised, he noted: “Test results showed that classroom indoor air quality is within healthy limits, the samples taken from wet flooring and the concrete slab foundation showed no signs of mold.”

Joshua, however, remains steadfast. She asks in her email, “We want answers. We want to know what was in that unregulated landfill.”

The Signal filed a public records request this month with the city of Santa Clarita to ascertain whether documents prepared for the environmental impact report, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act, would explain what was in the landfill.  

Farming history

Long before it was transformed into a suburban community, the Santa Clarita Valley was dotted with ranches and onion fields, peppered with oil wells.

According to inspectors with Rincon Consultants Inc., who carried out an environmental site assessment in 1995 and 1996, “This area of Southern California was settled early in the state’s history, and farming and grazing have occurred since the 1700s.”

Before Bridgeport Elementary School was built, the hilly terrain north of the Santa Clara River and east of McBean Parkway was home to hog farmers and barley growers.

The demand for homes, however, soon outpaced the demand for crops and hogs, according to a 1963-95 report of crop reviews by the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner.

From 1950 to 1966, as the site turned from farming to residential, the north bank of the Santa Clara River east of McBean became a popular dumping ground.

In 1995, officials with Rincon Consultants inspected the Bridgeport site in order to “observe existing site conditions and to identify indicators of hazardous materials that could affect the subject site.”

They concluded: “With the possible exception of miscellaneous debris and junk on the property, the environmental site assessment has not provided evidence suggesting that recognized environmental conditions affect the property.”

Cleanup agreement

On Jan. 21, 2000, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Saugus Union School District entered into a voluntary cleanup agreement.

The district was to carry out a preliminary endangerment assessment under the watchful eye of state toxic substances officials.

“The landfill was excavated prior to DTSC’s involvement, but DTSC did a comprehensive investigation,” DTSC spokesman Russ Edmunson said. “Based on the sampling results, no further action was required.”

Edmonson said the “former undocumented fill encompassed approximately 120,000 square feet along the southern boundary. The landfill was used for household waste from 1950 to approximately 1966.”

DTSC would decide what additional work, if any, would be required.

One clause in the agreement required the district to notify DTSC if it “learned of any condition posing an immediate threat to the public health or safety or the environment.”

No such cause for concern was found.

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On Twitter: @jamesarthurholt

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