Toxic chemicals found in creek at Escondido park

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ESCONDIDO, Calif. - A popular park in North County may be putting dozens of families at risk by exposing them to dangerous toxins found in the creeks of Felicita Park in Escondido.

Laura Hunter, an environmentalist for the Escondido Neighbors United group, has been tracking reports of toxic chemicals found in the creek and in the underground water in Felicita Park.

“It’s in the ground water in all of these areas and it’s in the creek,” said Hunter. “We know that it is migrating south in the direction of Lake Hodges which is a drinking water storage area [for San Diego].”

A lab tested the water and found concentrations of toxic chemicals that exceed water quality standards.

“There is a long list of chemicals. The ones that are most commonly known are something called TCE and PCE; they are industrial solvents,” said Hunter. “It really troubles us that there are no signs in the park when we know for a fact that there are contaminants in the park that exceeds the standards.”

The chemicals are coming from the nearby Chatham Brothers Barrel Yard – a recycling center used to dispose hazardous waste by several companies for decades, according to Hunter.

The companies who used the site spent millions getting most of the chemicals cleaned near the area of the yard, but Hunter worries more needs to be done about the plume that’s escaped the site.

“Unfortunately, they didn’t dispose of it properly and it ended up in a pond on the site and it’s leaking into the groundwater into the area,” said Hunter.

Right now, it appears to be roughly from Gamble Lane in the north, to Via Rancho Parkway to the south and roughly between the two forks of Felicita Creek.

Engineering geologists from the Regional Water Quality Board are taking samples of the water and are focused on the most prevalent toxin, TCE, which has been linked to causing cancer.

Fred Progner, an Escondido resident lives north of Lake Hodges, he uses the well in his backyard for irrigation, bathing and drinking.

“This has been a concern for some time now,” said Progner.

Progner said his neighbor’s well tested positive for TCE, he worries his home could be next.

A report sent to Fox5 by the Water Board, the groundwater is never expected to reach Lake Hodges.

State and county officials have scheduled for a town hall meeting  Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the California Center for the Artson. They intend to discuss plans for a more aggressive cleanup strategy.

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