Bitter Harvest

Four Huntington Beach kids have died of a rare disease. Officials say theres no pattern. The parents say the answer could be underground

It's hard to say which is stranger: the fact that officials insist that, despite the city's past life as an oil town, the soil is clean and there's no connection between oil pollution and the deaths of Trent, Nikki, David and Spencer. Or that although their parents disagree with that assessment, they have no plans to sue.

Instead, they have formed a support group—Support, Teach, Advocate, Nurture and Dedicate (STAND), which has its own website (www.oc-stand.org). Even though some members have other, healthy children, no one in STANDplans to move.

"We don't want to leave," Olson said. "We want this neighborhood to be safe. We can't prove our children died because of the environment, but we want an agency to study this. If something can be done to clean the water or soil, then do it."

POSTSCRIPT: Before cleaning water and soil that's already contaminated, the city might consider making sure that all of its oil wells are stable. On March 18, just days after state officials announced they were about to begin the three-year clean-up of Ascon/Nesi, an inactive oil well at the dumpsite burst a leak and shot a spray of oil 40 feet into the air. A fire crew closed Magnolia Street and set to work scrubbing toxic sludge off roofs, car, sidewalks and streets. Although 360 homes surrounding the dumpsite were coated with oil, officials claimed the leak posed no long-term health hazards to the public.

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