El Cajon Residents Concerned Over Possible Air and Groundwater Contamination

The affected area covers approximately two miles, stretching from Greenfield Drive all the way to Gillespie Field

An El Cajon neighborhood is concerned over the effects of possible toxins in the air and groundwater near their homes.

The affected area covers approximately two miles, stretching from Greenfield Drive all the way to Gillespie Field.

Residents living on the 700 block of Greenfield Drive, near Magnolia Elementary School told NBC 7 they received a notice from the San Diego Water Board informing them of voluntary testing for possible contaminants.

According to the notice, there will be an investigation and cleanup at the location where the former aerospace facility, Ketema/AMETEK was based. The company, opened in the 1950s, dumped chemicals into the groundwater, which caused contamination.

Testing in 1987 led to the discovery of chlorinated solvents in the groundwater. Since then, environmental agencies have been monitoring the soil and groundwater, as well as taking steps to clean up the contamination.

NBC 7 talked to people who live in Greenfield Mobile Estates in El Cajon who said they are worried the groundwater around their homes and the air they breathe is contaminated. Some added that they wonder if the chemicals could cause cancer.

“It has always been in the back of our minds and now it's kind of scary because we're getting letters from the water board wanting to do samples,” said El Cajon resident Victoria Masters. “I've got a 10-day old baby that we just brought home, so you know is he going to be affected?”

"I certainly wouldn't let my granddaughter drink that water and now that I think about it, I should give the dogs bottled water," said Teri Melfa.

But the San Diego Water Board said there is no immediate health risk and that the levels of chlorinated solvents have decreased over the years. They installed 60 groundwater monitoring wells as part of the investigation and cleanup efforts.

Since the Helix Water Department provides water to the City of El Cajon, the groundwater is not used for drinking water.

Magnolia Elementary School, which has been tested for contaminants in the soil and air since 1994, has been deemed safe for students and staff.

Ketema/Ametek is now leading the testing under the supervision of the San Diego Water Board and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). The testing is expected to start in the coming weeks.

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