Toxic Army Base Lurks in San Jose Park

Mount Umunhum will soon be ready for guests, but you might not want to roam all over the hilltop just yet.

First, San Jose will need to deal with decades of asbestos, lead, and other toxic pollution on the site. The contamination comes courtesy of some old army buildings, currently being very carefully dismantled.

When that phase of work is done, hopefully in 2012, the public will be allowed in for the first time. But only on a limited basis -- full access to the peak will require more restoration and a repaved road, which could take until 2016 to finish.

By the time it's done, it's expected to cost around $13 million. Of that, only about $3 million has been secured. Another $3 million may come later this month.

Considered the South Bay's version of Mount Tam,
Mount Umunhum was used to watch for Soviet bombings through the latter portion of the 20th century. After selling the land in the 1980s, the Defense Department argued that they no longer have a responsibility to clean up the toxins that they left behind. The buildings were once inhabited by army families, though they've now been abandoned for decades.

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District will address the land at a meeting on Thursday.

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