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[whitespace] City finishes clean up of hazardous dump site

Cupertino--When Cupertino began dumping public works materials at a location on Stevens Canyon Road off of Ricardo Road, little did the city know that years later, there would be legal ramifications.

Last spring, PH Property, the new owners of the site, contacted the city to clean up the area and dispose of the hazardous materials--mostly concrete, asphalt and clippings.

While PH Property did not file any formal complaints or lawsuits, the company did threaten the city with a lawsuit unless steps were taken to clean up the area, Bert Viskovich, director of public works, said.

During the early 1950s and '60s, Cupertino used the land, near the old McDonald Dorsa Quarry, as a landfill for public works material.

"[The dumping] was approved, but we can't find any written authority. In the old days, a lot of agreements were verbal, handshake type stuff," Viskovich said. "If it wasn't OK, the property owner would have made sure we didn't dump there. We wouldn't dump there without prior approval."

Cupertino and PH Property reached an agreement for the city to dispose of the materials and to restore the land to its original state before it was used as a public works landfill.

"We, at the onset, were obligated because we were the ones to place the material in there even though at that time, it was perfectly legal and acceptable to place it there," Viskovich said. "It's not acceptable in today's environmental standards so the only thing the city can do at that point was remove it."

Environmentally acceptable levels of lead and asbestos in construction materials were higher than what they were now. Under today's standards, the Santa Clara County Health Department found hazardous levels of acetone, oil, diesel and lead on the property.

In October, several tons of dirt and materials were removed from the site and transported to a hazardous material landfill 200 miles away in Kettleman City.

The city is awaiting final approval from the county health department before beginning restoration work.

The county health department is waiting for the final report on the clean up of the site, said Mohammad Janjua, county hazardous materials specialist. Janjua believes he will receive the report in a month.
Michelle Ku

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Web extra to the April 1-7, 1999 issue of Metro.

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