Former Modesto City Councilman Bruce Frohman didn’t give up leadership when he left the Council. He’s always been a beacon of civic awareness. Here, Frohman sounds an urgent alarm over yet another toxic waste site in Modesto.
Every time a rock is flipped over in Modesto, another toxic waste site is sitting there like a scorpion, ready to inflict pain and suffering.
While serving on the Modesto City Council from 1999 to 2003, I learned as much as I could about toxic waste sites within the city, including location, how large the site, and the remediation. Imagine my shock when I only recently learned that even Cal Trans, an organization known for its high standards for road construction and employee professionalism, had created a 120 thousand cubic yard toxic soil site within the 132 Freeway right-of-way. The site is the second largest toxic soil site in Modesto, located less than 100 feet from residential property.
Placing so much Barium and other toxic materials so close to human dwellings is the pinnacle of irresponsibility.
In 1961, Cal Trans may not have known how toxic the soil was when they dredged the bottom of the FMC chemical pond to build freeway 99. One can understand that they were trying to save money by piling soil for a future 132 freeway. But once they realized that the soil contained Barium and other toxins that can cause severe health problems in humans, one would have expected them to immediately take action to protect the surrounding community.
When one looks at all the money and effort expended by FMC to remediate its toxic waste site, the chain link fence at the 132 site doesn’t look like much protection. Officially, Cal Trans maintains that there is no present danger to the public from the soils in the right of way. But talk to someone off the record and you may hear cryptic comments like, “I wouldn’t want any children to play in the soil,” and “The soil is not safe to move from its present location.” Thinking about the recent wind storm, how could toxic soil not have been blown into the surrounding area?
Cal Trans says it will put a concrete cap on the site when it builds the 132 freeway. If they know a concrete cap will be needed, what are they waiting for? Do they think that the present mounds of dirt are impervious to wind and rain?
While on the City Council, I learned how toxic waste harms the human body. For example, putting Flouride in drinking water is a bad idea. While the substance inhibits tooth decay, it is a toxic compound that accumulates in the body until it causes multiple adverse health effects. The toxic soil in the 132 right of way contains chemicals much more dangerous than flouride.
Am I making a mountain out of a toxic molehill? This is your community. What is your tolerance for unnecessary risk? I don’t take risks with the health and well-being of my fellow citizens.
As an emergency expediency, the money in the freeway construction fund should be used now to cap the 132 toxic soil site in concrete. With any remaining money, do a comprehensive study and clean up of pollution to the land and groundwater surrounding the site. We have waited 50 years for this freeway. We can wait a little longer in the name of public health.
Movies like “Erin Brocovich” have highlighted the fact that polluters have historically mishandled and underestimated the effects on humans of dangerous materials. Just because the site has existed for 40 years does not mitigate the fact that a clean up must be started now.