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Lawyers want to monitor airport TCE testing 

The attorney representing several SLO residents whose wells tested positive for high levels of a toxic chemical wants to send a representative to monitor the county’s testing activities at the SLO County Regional Airport.

John Fiske, an attorney for the San Diego based Gomez Law Firm said he is pushing to have an observer watch the testing, which the county hopes will answer whether the airport is the source of high levels of trichloroethene, or TCE, recently found in private wells in the Buckley Road area of SLO.

“We have experts that observe these tests all the time,” said Fiske, whose firm represents about 48 residents impacted by the TCE contamination. “We want some level of information and confidence in the way the sampling has occurred.”

A total of 64 wells have been tested for the chemical since October, with 12 of them testing positive for TCE in amounts above federal drinking water standards. Rumors that the airport may be the source of the contamination began soon after. In April, the county along with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, agreed to begin taking gas and soil samples in and around the airport. Airport officials have said previously that the airport was “not likely” the source of the contamination.

On July 20, Fiske contacted New Times, and claimed that the county had refused to allow his firm to send someone to observe the testing.

“These families are being blocked out of the process,” he said.

SLO County Counsel Rita Neal confirmed that Fiske had approached the county about the issue. 

“Many of the areas where sampling will occur will either be in public areas, or if in a secure area, visible from a public area,” Neal stated in an email to New Times. “Mr. Fiske has been told that he and his representatives are welcome to view and be present during the testing, but they must remain in the public areas and keep a reasonable distance from the activities so as not to interfere with the investigation as ordered by the [Water Board]. [Water Board] staff will be on site to observe and review the sampling activities and to assure compliance with their requirements.”

The testing is expected to last through July, and preliminary results are expected by mid-August. Fiske indicated that his clients do intend to file a lawsuit over the contamination. The legal discovery process would give the firm the power through the subpoena process to conduct additional testing, Fiske said.

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