I am writing about a concerning issue uncovered at the Sweetwater car wash site. It seems the project architect and involved city development staff have been dishonest with the public regarding the contamination of the site for the past five years.
This project has been reviewed by the Planning Commission four times. Each time, residents expressed their deep concerns about contamination at this former gas station, only to receive reassurances from the architect and staff that all contamination had been remediated. Each staff report stated, “Soil contamination related to the underground gasoline storage tanks was remediated.”
I recently discovered the remediation report that staff and the architect have been referencing on the city website. According to the report, the site only underwent a partial remediation due to the current site use – a car wash with no plans to disturb the soil. The report states that 23 cubic yards of contaminated soil, 180 gallons of gasoline, 2 gallons of benzene, MTMB, and six other contaminants were left in the soil and groundwater. I was also surprised to learn that the soil under the 80-year-old building containing hydro lifts was never tested or remediated.
The Planning Commission reviewed the project again on June 7. The staff report did not mention the word contamination. Staff stated the project qualifies for a CEQA categorical exemption.
At the meeting, residents submitted the report exposing site contamination. A CEQA attorney stated that this is a toxic site, therefore, would not qualify for a CEQA categorical exemption and would instead require a CEQA initial study.
The commissioners disregarded this information and approved the project with a CEQA categorical exemption.
The repeated assurances that the contamination was remediated/abated raise serious questions about the reliability of information provided by this architect and staff. We urge the local authorities to thoroughly investigate this matter and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. We must establish strict regulations and procedures moving forward.
As community members, we trust the city and its officials to prioritize our safety and well-being. Unfortunately, this trust has been shattered as we have discovered the true nature of the site’s contamination. This revelation has left us feeling betrayed and has significantly eroded our faith in those responsible for overseeing such projects.
Christy Miller, Laguna Beach