every million children younger than 15 are diagnosed each year with
this invariably fatal cancer. Yet there have been four cases in
southeast Huntington Beach in recent years.
We know that a cluster of cancers in one geographic area doesn't
necessarily mean that there is something in the immediate environment
that caused it. People who contract cancer aren't uniformly
distributed over the map. We also know that it is impossible to
gather meaningful statistics with only four cases.
The causes of most childhood brain tumors, including brainstem
gliomas, are unknown. But we do know that exposure to certain
chemicals can cause cancer. Our industrialized society provides a
multitude of opportunities for exposure.
A prime candidate for a source of cancer-causing chemicals in
southeast Huntington Beach is the Ascon/NESI dump, a California EPA
Superfund toxic waste site at the southwest corner of Hamilton Avenue
and Magnolia Street. It seems suspicious to us that four children who
lived and played near this toxic waste dump contracted an extremely
The 38-acre Ascon site has served as a dumping ground for a
variety of liquid and solid wastes since 1938. Early deposits were
mostly waste from oil-drilling operations. From 1957 to 1971,
however, the toxics that were dumped included industrial hazardous
wastes such as chromic acid, sulfuric acid, aluminum slag, phenolic
compounds and styrene.
Disposal of hazardous waste stopped in 1971. After that, inert
materials such as abandoned vehicles, asphalt, concrete, metal and
other debris were dumped until the site closed in 1984. In light of
today's values for coastal real estate, it's incredible to us that
someone would have chosen a site so near the ocean for a toxic waste
dump. It is also incredible -- disturbing is a better word -- that a
community park, an elementary school and a high school were built
right across the street from it.
The Ascon site currently has five 25-foot-deep lagoons of liquid
petroleum waste. A plume of hydrocarbons has spread out underground
from these lagoons. More than a half-dozen pits of toxic waste are