Corona, CA: Apartments planned for former toxic site

Owners of a former toxic dump site in west Corona say they plan to build apartments and an industrial park on 38 acres.

The project could be considered by the Corona Planning Commission in November, but a date has not yet been set, said Sandra Yang, associate planner for Corona.

Developer Rusty Turner, of Turner Real Estate Investments in Newport Beach, said his company is working to get entitlements to build 288 apartments and an industrial park on the site known as Thomas Ranch. Revisions to the project still are being made.

The company built such local projects as Riverwalk, a large business development in Riverside off Highway 91 near Pierce Street.

The Thomas Ranch site is vacant property that had been used by as a dumping ground by several oil companies to unload oil sludge and sulfuric acid waste in the 1940s, when only a property owner’s approval was needed.

It sits south of Palisades Drive and west of Serfas Club Drive, sandwiched between industrial buildings and the residential community of Coronita.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control oversaw cleanup of the pollution in 2005. The pollution, for the most part, was not removed, but capped and covered using a gas migration system to monitor the gas and control exposure to the four underground ponds of pollution on the north bank of Wardlow Wash, about 300 feet from the nearest house.

The site was among the biggest hazardous waste dumps in Riverside County.

Building restrictions apply to the western portion of the property where the waste ponds are, limiting about 16 acres, called the lower pad, to commercial and industrial uses. Homes, hospitals, adult schools and day care centers cannot be built on that part of the site, Yang said.

“That was the reason why the original designer put all the industrial uses on the lower pad, and the residential on the upper pad,” Yang said.

The pollution also makes the land unsuitable for playgrounds or sports fields.

The proposed project requires more room for apartments, compared to an original condominium plan by the previous land owner. That need led to a portion of the eastern end of the property being re-zoned from commercial to high-density residential, Yang said.

Twelve acres would house the industrial park.

Jeanne Garcia of the state Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxic Substances Control, said the site is still monitored with monthly inspections of the cover system, semi-annual groundwater elevation monitoring, annual groundwater sampling, a settlement survey every five years and annual maintenance.

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