Seal Beach city leaders and community groups meet with county officials this week to review the latest cleanup plan by BP/ARCO to rid a neighborhood of a 25-year-old gasoline spill.

In a somewhat unusual move, representatives of community groups will participate in some of the government discussions with BP/ARCO officials.

Although residents close to the ARCO station at Pacific Coast Highway and Fifth Street have seen the oil company commit to getting rid of pollution that caused the temporary evacuation of three homes in December, leaders said it’s too soon to declare victory.

In it’s cleanup plan, BP/ARCO said it would tear down the gas station, dig out contaminated soil on the property and haul it to a safe disposal site. But residents and the city had argued for a full excavation of polluted dirt, even if that meant digging beyond the gas station boundaries.

BP/ARCO plans to use other technology to remove the remaining chemical fumes from surrounding soil.

In a series of sessions that began Oct. 21 and will continue in coming days, Orange County Health Care Agency executives met with city officials and BP/ARCO representatives to discuss the permits needed to begin the cleanup. BP/ARCO hopes to have its work finished by August, and officials are discussing ways to speed up the permit process on the state and local level to meet the cleanup schedule.

On Wednesday, county health officials will talk to BP/ARCO about its cleanup plan, and the county, at the request of the city, will allow one representative from a Citizen Technical Advisory Committee and one representative from the Community Action Group to observe the meeting, according to a city announcement.

After 25 years of on-and-off efforts to remove the source of contamination, well-organized community members and a task force of neighbors who had experience with environmental cleanup projects have this year moved the removal efforts close to success.

On Thursday, after BP/ARCO meets with the county, the health officials will meet with city and neighborhood groups, but not BP/ARCO, to answer questions and talk about the plan.

Mario Iacoboni, a neighborhood resident who works with environmental cleanup projects, said it’s important for the final plan to make sure the cleanup really works.

Speaking for himself and not as a spokesperson for the neighborhood, he said the final plan needs to firmly assure residents that if BP/ARCO doesn’t dig out all of the contaminated dirt adjacent to the gas station, the project won’t be abandoned until all of the pollution is permanently gone.

“The work is ahead of us,” he said.


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