Action News Exclusive: Mysterious Oil in a Tent City Will Be Cleaned Up By Union Pacific Rail

September 19, 2008 7:53:40 PM PDT
On Sunday we showed you a homeless encampment in downtown Fresno where a mysterious dark sludge was just feet away from where some call home. Officials with Union Pacific were uncertain at the time if this sludge was on their property. It turns out it is. And now it's their job to clean it up. In an exclusive Action News investigation we learned more than one party will be involved with the clean up and what it means to those living on the land.A mysterious dark sludge lurks underground at tent city in downtown Fresno. Action News first alerted Union Pacific officials about the sludge a week ago. In an interview last Friday spokeswoman Zoe Richmond promised if this black sludge was on their property Union Pacific would dispose of it.

Action News learned Friday the rail company now has plans to clean it up. Fresno County environmental health expert Vincent Mendes learned about the substance after watching Action News. Now Mendes will oversee Union Pacific clean up the underground mess.

"And any sampling that needs to be done underneath the tank to make sure there is no contamination," said Mendes.

Mendes said the oil-like sludge appears to be stored in a tank from an old packing house or rail road fueling station.

Whatever it is that's storing the oil underneath the ground will soon be removed. The issue now becomes the people that live in this area. Some if not all will have to be removed as well.

"Heavy equipment that has to go in there. A back hoe is used in the removals and depending on the size of the tank they may have to get a crane in there to lift it out," said Mendes.

That news doesn't sit well with Richard who lives in this tent city.

Richard: "The past two years I've been here. What if the fumes do come up, if it's hazardous down there?"

Despite his concerns Richard said he welcomes the help cleaning up the area. Union Pacific officials plan to remove the oil within two to three weeks. Those living here would be displaced for only a couple of days.

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