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Wildomar Residents Say State Officials Are Ignoring Hazardous Chemicals In Autumnwood Neighborhood

“People are sick and dying. You should be investigating where these chemicals come from,” said Autumnwood homeowner Xonia Villanueva.

There was visible frustration Tuesday night as about 40 Autumnwood residents claimed public officials are moving too slowly on an investigation into whether their Wildomar neighborhood is a toxic hazard.

Many Autumnwood residents lashed out at officials who were on hand representing South Coast Air Quality Management District, Department of Toxic Substances Control, Riverside County Department of Public Health and the city during a two-hour workshop at Wildomar Elementary School.

“People are sick and dying. You should be investigating where these chemicals come from,” said Autumnwood homeowner Xonia Villanueva, who is leading the charge to find answers.

Tuesday’s workshop was coordinated by the city of Wildomar.

Despite repeated requests throughout the evening by Autumnwood residents for the DTSC to conduct testing for toxic substances in their neighborhood, officials from the state agency insisted there is not yet enough evidence to warrant the analysis.

“But it’s DTSC’s job to investigate,” Villanueva said. “We can’t even live in our homes.”

Villanueva and many of the other Autumnwood residents contend their community near Wildomar Elementary was built atop toxic fill dirt brought in from Lake Elsinore. They claim the soil may be contaminated with a variety of chemicals including unsafe levels of chlorinated and petroleum-based volatile organic compounds.

DTSC Branch Chief John Scandura was skeptical.

“We’re not seeing anything at this point,” he said, referring to independent test results provided by Swanson Law Firm, which is representing several Autumnwood residents who claim their homes are making them sick.

Residents insist the findings warrant further testing by the state agency.

Scandura held his ground.

“We have no reason to believe the data is invalid,” he said of the independent findings, explaining that the results did not set off alarm bells at the state agency.

At the request of Wildomar Mayor Ben Benoit, South Coast Air Quality Management District will conduct air testing in the neighborhood to look for chemicals that may be permeating up from the soil.

Benoit sits on the agency’s board.

SCAQMD Assistant Deputy Executive Officer Jill Whynot said even though her agency has agreed to test in Autumnwood, the independent findings were generally consistent with what one might expect to see in any neighborhood.

According to Whynot, her agency will conduct indoor and outdoor air testing at three Autumnwood homes this week or next, weather permitting. If the testing goes as scheduled, results would be returned within two to three weeks, she said.

Scandura told Patch that DTSC will test soil in Autumnwood if the SCAQMD findings warrant it, but he did not specify what threshold would first need to be met.

In the meantime, some Autumnwood residents expressed a feeling of hopelessness.

Villanueva said she and her family were forced to leave their residence in June 2011 after suffering repeated unexplained illnesses. They still own their Wildomar home, but say they can’t move back in without answers.

Other families have left the neighborhood as well, according to Villanueva, but none of the homes have been red-tagged by the city.

In August, Fatima Ciccarelli, a young mother and military wife who lived in Autumnwood died unexpectedly. Autopsy results are pending, but Thomas Ciccarelli is concerned his wife’s sudden passing could be linked to toxic substances. She died within a week of becoming sick with what was believed to be a cold, he said.

Several Autumnwood residents present Tuesday complained of maladies ranging from respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, to skin ailments and tumors.

County health officials were present Tuesday night, and spokesman Jose Arballo said the health department has received several calls from residents about concerns in Autumnwood. Despite requests, however, Arballo said none of the residents have yet forwarded medical records to the county for review.

County health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser reminded residents Tuesday that without the historical data his hands are tied.

Villanueva told Patch, “I don’t think this is the appropriate time to send the records,” explaining she would be willing to have her family’s personal files forwarded if the DTSC tests were complete.

“It’s a just a way to control us,” she said of the medical records requests.

The Teller of Truth December 19, 2012 at 04:29 PM
To Xonia, you are correct in your assumption about your private medical records. Not only will they try to control the situation as you implied, they will actually turn it around and use it AGAINST you. They're actually counting on the fact that any PRE EXISTING health problems were already present, so they can weasel out of any liability on their part. You're probably looking at a resolution years down the road. If you have any serious health issues now that you think might be exacerbated by the soil, I would seriously consider moving. You can always deal with financial end of this later, but you have to make your health a priority here. Good luck!
DeannaLHL December 19, 2012 at 10:00 PM
This is BS!!! The DTSC are dragging their feet, in the meantime people are displaced from their homes! The people who aren't displaced that have made the decision to stay in these homes are getting sicker! My best friend has invited agenices to go ahead and come stay in her home that she abandoned. Electricity is still on, it's a beautiful house, her family of 6 can no longer live in it, but by all means, why doesn't anyone else want to go ahead and stay rent free in there for a month? There are more than three households that have had illnesses, so why in the world is SCAQMD only testing 3 of the homes?
Lorraine December 20, 2012 at 02:46 AM
I have been in Thomas' house and can TASTE the toxins. I itched, coughed, was fatigued and had rashes everywhere. There is something in those homes. The trees and landscaping is dying! I would love to have anyone from the city council to the EPA stay in that house 1 day (24 hours). You know they won't. My niece died and I believe that that house is the cause. Makes me sick to think that no one will help these families. Tom is an active Marine. He has fought for us for 22 years and his own country can't fight for him? What does that say about the good ol USA?
Amaryllis Court December 20, 2012 at 08:23 AM
What disturbs me most is that the DTSC is outright saying the toxins are too low. This, despite their own data. CAL EPA published the California Human Health Screening Levels in Evaluation of Contaminated Properties (CHHSLs) in 2005 (look it up). It provides a threshold value that chemicals should not exceed. It is a FACT that many of the chemicals vaporizing into more than 12 homes EXCEED that threshold! AND, it says that when there are multiple chemicals the affects are multiplied!!! YES, MULTIPLIED. There are nearly 20 chemicals in all! YES, 20, some more hazardous than others. In the CHHSLs there is a formula to calculate the acute toxic affects, and the carcinogenic affect, and that even a quotient of "1", IS CONCERNING. Here are some of the quotients on Amaryllis Court: 153; 80; 53; 40; 12; 7; and so on. Think about that for a minute. Count them, FOUR: 1. Office of Environmental Health HAZARD Assessment (OEHHA); 2. Department of Toxic Substances & Control (DTSC); 3. State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB); & 4. Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCBs) are divisions under CAL EPA that CREATED the CHHSLs. So WHY DTSC are you saying that our levels are too low? You are disputing your own data! You are disputing your own SCIENTISTS! WHY? Meanwhile, innocent men, women, and children are breathing chemicals that belong in a SUPERFUND SITE! Shame on YOU!!!
Amaryllis Court December 20, 2012 at 08:27 AM
And one more thing... consider this too, that every home that has been tested thus far has come back positive for chemicals, many. NOT one home to date has come back clean! What does that say???? To: Teller of The Truth - I agree with you.
Mary Baker December 20, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Where in Lake Elsinore did this toxic soil come from?
Lorraine December 21, 2012 at 12:12 AM
What they aren't doing is combining these toxins which, from what I understand makes a toxic cocktail. There is something in those homes. I also heard that someone said the dirt came from an old gasoline station. You'd get plenty of oil rags and trash from there.
Amaryllis Court December 21, 2012 at 01:28 AM
51,000 CUBIC YARDS of soil came from RCWD's property in Murrieta, right next to their wastewater treatment ponds! UNBELIEVABLE & OUTRAGEOUS!
Lauren Tucker February 15, 2013 at 06:55 AM
Has anyone tested the water for nitrates or uranium? Both are dangerous at high levels, and uranium can turn into a poisonis radioactive gas called radon. There is an article on wildomar testing their water and having high nitrates in the water. If you search for water quality and what components are in the Santa Ana watershed, and which cities that water flows through I think you might be shocked. I live in San Jacinto, and we had to move a week ago because our well water has made me incredibly sick since July. I spoke with the riverside county health department yesterday and the guy brushed off all of the health problems I have had, and TE fact that a guy 2 miles down the road has the same problems and contaminated water in his well. Look up the health hazards of uranium and nitrates and you will be horrified :( and the fact that riverside county knows there are such severe problems and isn't doing anything to prevent further deaths or illness, disgusts me. If any of you have problems with your water get it tested! Don't go through the city or county though because I highly doubt they will tell you how contaminated the water is and how dangerous, because it will be pinned on them for not doing anything.
Lorraine February 16, 2013 at 03:10 AM
Thank you, Amaryllis Court for reading "between the lines".
Scott Jacobs April 17, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Someone needs to call Erin Brockavich!!!

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