Residents of the Autumnwood development in Wildomar are not being exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, state officials maintained Wednesday.
Some residents see it very differently.
Test results from air and soil samples taken from the Autumnwood neighborhood earlier this month by South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) officials were published Wednesday.
“Nothing in these sample results shows the need for additional sampling. Rather, the sample results are consistent with background levels found in the western United States,” said Jim Marxen, spokesman for the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
Autumnwood residents have been leaning on the DTSC to conduct its own testing, claiming SCAQMD methods are not up to EPA standards.
According to Wednesday’s report from SCAQMD (see attached), “all samples were within typical expected ranges for outdoor air, indoor air and soil, with the exception of soil samples collected specifically to evaluate the white material.”
The “white material" on top of the soil was found in a “small portion” of Autumnwood resident Xonia Villanueva's yard, the SCAQMD report stated.
The material contained high levels of various chemicals, including uranium, the report found.
Despite the findings, “The levels seen in these soil samples, while not within typical reported ranges, should not cause health concerns,” the report found.
Villanueva has maintained there are valid health concerns in her neighborhood following illnesses and the deaths of two women there.
“SCAQMD claims that they see nothing unusual in the air samples because they didn’t do the proper testing; we did!” she said.
Residents obtained legal representation and consultants were hired to conduct independent tests.
John Scandura, branch chief for the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, said he has reviewed those independent findings and they don’t raise red flags.
Villanueva wants DTSC to prove its case by conducting its own tests.
“We want the DTSC to stop playing games with innocent men, women, and children’s lives and do their job!” she said.
DTSC claims it is following through. In addition to reviewing SCAQMD results, DTSC also reviewed the construction inspector’s log and the geotechnical reports done for the Autumnwood project, Marxen said.
“Nothing in those documents indicated the soils were contaminated with anything other than common refuse and vegetation. Based on this additional data, we don’t see a potential source of contamination in the soils under or around the homes,” he added.
Villanueva and other Autumnwood residents will get a chance to argue their case during a Feb. 5 public meeting at Wildomar Elementary School.
The 6:30 p.m. meeting in the school’s multi-purpose room is open to all residents. Representatives from SCAQMD, DTSC, County of Riverside Department of Public Health, and the City of Wildomar will be on hand to discuss the latest test results and answer residents’ questions.
The meeting marks the second one in recent months. Click here to read more about the prior meeting.