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LA's Harbor Gateway is Close to Getting Its First Park and It's on a Superfund Site

An 8.5-acre, possibly still-horribly-contaminated site in Los Angeles's slim Harbor Gateway neighborhood is getting closer to becoming the area's first park. The big empty lot is, at the surface, a great space for a park—large, flat—but there's still a lot of work to be done to make sure that it's actually safe, say those at work to make the much-needed park a reality, reports the Daily Breeze. The park would be pretty much next door to not one but two federal Superfund sites, and on a parcel where homes were demolished because the soil around them was so tainted.

From the 1940s to the 1970s, by-products from both a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and the makers of DDT (Montrose Chemical Corporation of California) were dumped in "unlined pits and into the underground storm water pathway, while leaks left untold amounts of petroleum, benzene and other waste in the soil and groundwater" of these Harbor Gateway plots. Today, the Del Amo waste pits and the DDT manufacturer's former digs are Superfund sites, and they're still causing problems in the neighborhood.

An entire community south of the site had to be moved to a new location because the soil beneath them was contaminated with a cornucopia of badness; the houses were demolished in 2001. The park is set to built on the land where those houses once stood. But before that can happen, there are a lot of safety precautions to take. There are fears that "polluted soil vapors emanating from widespread underground waste nearby" might affect parkgoers, so air quality in nearby homes is being tested now. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is still looking for toxic waste on and around the Superfund site, and new pollution is being found all the time, the result of "leaked petroleum pipelines and fuel tanks, and adjacent companies that made bleach, light metals and used volatile organic compounds."

Still, a park here is possible, says the founder and director of the Del Amo Action Committee, a group of residents who lived in those razed homes, along with their neighbors, who are helping direct the creation of the park. One thing workers plan to do is lay down a two-foot barrier of dirt on top of a divider separating existing soil from new uncontaminated soil. "We've been pushing, pushing and pushing to get this park built as safe and clean as possible," one neighbor tells the DB. "I don't want to get my hopes up too high, but this is by far the closest we've ever gotten to getting the park." Once complete, the park could include a baseball field, courts for basketball and futsal, and picnicking areas.

· Harbor Gateway celebrates milestone in fight for park in toxic neighborhood [DB]