A new monitoring well near a mobile home park in El Cajon. Oct. 19, 2016. Meg Wood/inewsource
A new monitoring well near a mobile home park in El Cajon. Oct. 19, 2016. Meg Wood/inewsource


Wednesday will be the first time residents of two El Cajon mobile home parks will have the chance to hear from state officials about a toxic plume that runs beneath their homes.

A map published by inewsource shows that a shallow plume of the chemical trichloroethylene runs under part of the Starlight and Greenfield Mobile Homes Estates.

View larger map – click on a color in the plume to see approximate concentration

Many people already knew the contaminated groundwater flowed under Magnolia Elementary School. The school was closed while a ventilation system was installed to route vapors from the ground away from classrooms. The piping is visible outside each room.

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But residents of the mobile homes did not know the plume also ran under their community, even though it shares a fence with the school. One said he had seen workers in hazmat suits at the school sampling shallow groundwater. Half a dozen monitoring wells can be seen just feet from the front doors of the homes. But only in the last few weeks have the residents been offered air testing.

The plume has long been known to the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Department of Toxic Substances Control. It is a legacy of waste disposal practices at a former aerospace manufacturer. The practices ceased in the 1980s and some of the most heavily contaminated soil was taken away. By that time groundwater had already moved the chemicals downstream. The plume reaches for 1.3 miles.

The meeting takes place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Magnolia Elementary School according to the state announcement in English, Spanish and Arabic.

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Ingrid Lobet is a reporter at inewsource specializing in the environment. To contact her with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email ingridlobet@inewsource.org.