Toxic Concerns Over Development in San Jose

By Damian Trujillo
|  Friday, Apr 18, 2014  |  Updated 7:42 PM PDT
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It was billed as the

It was billed as the "Santana Row of South San Jose," but the huge development at the old IBM plant has been stalled for a while, and now there is concern over dangerous toxins that still exist in the ground. Damian Trujillo reports.

It's being hailed as “the new Santana Row.” Now there is growing concern over dangerous toxins that still exist in the ground at a development site in South San Jose.

The Village Oaks development site sits in between Monterey Road and Highway 85 in South San Jose. Construction in the area is booming right now, even as health concerns mount.

The city has done a lot with the former IBM plant, with recreation areas and stores already built, and more under construction, but while IBM is gone, there is growing concern over a dangerous carcinogen that remains in the ground.

When it’s done, the development is supposed to feature over 300,000 square feet of retail space and more than 5 acres of high-density housing.

But lurking in the ground beneath the development is a carcinogen called TCE, or trichloroethylene. It was once used in chip manufacturing and is known to cause birth defects.

“I had no idea about,” neighbor Juana Pino said. “I think that should be investigated before they build houses.”

Crews have spent the last four years trying to locate the source of the carcinogen.

They’ve treated the area, but in a report released in February by Golder Associates, clean-up crews tell the city, the county and the regional water quality control board that the treatment isn’t working: TCE levels continue to be above cleanup standards.

San Jose City Councilman Ash Kalra hadn’t heard about this report.

“Of course, if there’s anything that needs to be cleaned up, then the city will ensure that it’s cleaned up,” Kalra said. “I’m more than happy to take whatever information I can get and check in with the Environmental Services Department.”

The report says the source could be in an undeveloped part of the property that has been fenced off.

But the talk of toxic plumes alone isn’t sitting well with those who live around the contaminated grounds.

Tammy Freidt said her family uses the recreational facilities nearby.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Friedt said. “I thought it would be a
little more public.”

The Village Oaks development is one of several new high-density housing projects underway in San Jose.

The Grand at Avenue One, near Kaiser Permanente, should be done this fall. It will have 450 townhomes and single family homes.

In downtown, look for the Centerra high-rise next year. The 21-story building will have about 350 units and a lot of retail space.

Also opening next year is One South Market. The 23-story glass-steel tower will have more than 300 units.

And, construction begins later this year on The St. James Towers. It's going up across the street from San Pedro Square, bringing in more than 600 apartments.

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