El Cajon residents fear toxic plume near school, homes

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EL CAJON, Calif. – Powerhouse attorney Erin Brokovich is investigating a toxic situation in El Cajon.

Residents tell FOX 5 it’s regarding a toxic plume of groundwater. The affected area covers about a two-mile span.

“My wife started feeling some different symptoms,” said Sam Kouza, resident. “She said I don’t know what’s happening to me. She couldn’t move her arm, she was so dizzy.”

Kouza moved to Starlight Mobile Home Park six months ago from Las Vegas. He said three months after moving in, his wife started getting ill. He learned from another neighbor about the toxic situation.

“She told me about the toxic plume,” Kouza said.

The toxins are from Ametek, a company that manufactures electric motors and electronic instruments. FOX 5 contacted Ametek but has not yet heard back.

“They kept insisting it’s safe,” Kouza said. “We are very concerned this is [causing] health problems.”

About 100 residents packed a meeting at Magnolia Elementary School Wednesday night. The San Diego Regional Water Quality board said the groundwater has been polluted with chemicals for at least 50 years and can emit toxins into the air.

Residents have taken it up themselves to call advocate Erin Brockovich, who is now looking into the case. On Brockovich’s Facebook page, she writes, "This is ridiculous that it took the polluter and the regulator so long to notify these people. Life has been damaged by this neglect."

Souza said a class action lawsuit could possibly follow.

“It’s very frightening,” said Tori Jones, who lives at Starlight with her grandmother. She’s particularly nervous about the plume.

“I went to Magnolia when I was in elementary school...it’s kind of scary to know it’s been going on for that long,” Jones said.

Magnolia Elementary School is also in the affected area and last year the school was forced to shut down for the year.

“They did close it because kids were complaining of sicknesses,” Jones said.

Now that plume is possibly beneath her neighborhood.

“It’s kind of weird to know that I went to the school, and now I’m here," Jones said. "It’s almost like it's following me, I guess. It's kind of weird.”

Now she hopes "weird" is all it turns out to be.

“I mean it’s a scary thing to know that something could come up because of this,” Jones said.

Residents said the Regional Water Quality Board plans on conducting testing on the air and water but that it's not enough.

“They selected about 15 homes and there’s like 200 and something homes,” Kouza said.

“The people think that everybody should be tested here,” Jones said.