Coastal Post Online

February 2001

Toxic Drum Disappears From Hamilton

By Elena Belsky

On January 9th, one week after the Coastal Post broke the story "How Much Toxic Waste Contaminates Hamilton?", the City of Novato hired a hazardous clean up contractor to remove four potentially toxic drums and associated contaminated soil. According to a Marin IJ article on January 13th, the two electrical transformers and oily spill areas were confirmed to be contaminated with polychlorinatedbiphenyls (PCB's), a serious human health hazard. One cubic yard of topsoil was removed from the site. Upon recent inspection of the area, it is unclear whether the dirt had been disturbed, and there was still an obvious, visible area still saturated with oil, where the PCB transformer had been on its side.

Interestingly enough, in the same article, Dominic Zigant, principal civil engineer for the City of Novato said "a hiker came across the drums last month in an isolated area near Pacheco Creek" (Coastal Post readers know who this not so "anonymous" hiker really is). Most certainly the dump site was NOT isolated, but very accessible to the public and in plain view.

The debate rages on between the City of Novato, the Army Corps of Engineers, and New Hamilton Partnership developers, as to the origin of the toxic materials and who is responsible for the clean up costs which topped $20,000. The Army Corps of Engineers claim that the Army would not have disposed of the drums in that manner, yet two witnesses to the original discovery confirm that a heavily plastic-wrapped black 55 gallon drum had orange stenciled letters with code numbers indicating Army use. Photos confirm that this particular black drum seems to have been removed sometime between December 19th and December 26th, PRIOR to the City of Novato's clean up on January 9th, 2001. Only a large pile of heavy-duty black plastic was left behind. Any potentially hazardous waste is highly controlled, must be carefully tested before removal and disposal, and there is strict documentation of all actions. The City of Novato says their contractor removed four drums, when there should have been FIVE on site. Where is this "fifth drum", and who removed it? Was it disposed of properly, or will another "hiker" come upon it somewhere else on Hamilton?

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