CARSON, Calif. (KTLA) — The contamination was so bad, homeowners were told not to eat fruits and vegetables growing on their properties.
Some believed a single bite could make them seriously sick.
On Monday, hundreds of residents in Carson, afraid of the ground their homes sit on, demanded one thing — an emergency declaration.
The city said investigators found leaking oil, explosive methane gas, cancer-causing benzene and various other poisonous chemicals in the yards of at least 285 homes in an area called Carousel.
“Before I bought my house, people at work used to tell me, ‘Are you made of iron? You never get sick,’” homeowner Kathy Post said.
“Two-and-a-half years after buying my first home, I’ve lost part of my leg because of my immune system. My whole body is affected by things. How much more can I take?”
The Carousel community was built on top of old tanks from the Shell Oil Company, which city officials said were spreading harmful substances into their lands.
The issue was discovered in 2008, and the town has been demanding Shell clean it ever since.
Famous environmental activist Erin Brockovich added her influence and expertise to the fight.
She had harsh words for how slow Shell handled the contamination clean-up.
“It’s intolerable. It’s inexcusable,” Brockovich said. “You are looking at the public health and welfare of men, women, children and an entire community that’s in peril. And it is a state of emergency. “
In a letter, Shell Oil said they are against Carson’s emergency declaration.
Shell claimed there were “no immediate health risks to the community,” but residents and the council begged to differ.
“This contamination is clearly severe and clearly is doing damage to our city. So we are asking Shell to stop the damage and do the right thing,” Mayor Jim Dear said.