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Erin Brockovich and Carson Residents Score a Victory as Shell Oil is Ordered to Clean Up Contamination

Somewhere, Erin Brockovich is smiling.

Since last year, the famous crusader has supported the Carousel neighborhood residents of Carson in their fight to get Shell Oil to clean up the community, where the company used to store up to 140 million gallons of crude.

Dangerous levels of carcinogens, such as benzene, have seeped into the soil, say the residents, placing their health in jeopardy.

But would Shell ever do the right thing and wipe up its old mess?

The answer appears to be "yes," after a California water board recently issued an abatement order and instructed Shell to clean the contaminated area.

"Shell is guilty of despicable conduct in Carson," Thomas V. Girardi, attorney for the Carousel homeowners, said in a statement, "and I am pleased the Water Board is not letting them off the hook on this toxic mess lurking beneath almost 300 homes in Carson."

According to the Carousel Neighborhood Association, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board determined that Shell was responsible for discharging pollution into the area and therefore must do the cleanup.

It also found that more than 9-feet of oil had accumulated in monitoring wells, "indicating that Shell buried and concealed more than just old tank bottoms, but leftover oil as well," states the neighborhood association.

Shell used storage tanks on the land for 40 years, up until the 1960s, when the company sold the land to a developer. Residents, however, did not learn about the storage facilities or the contamination until 2009 when toxic investigators happened upon the contamination while examining a different site.

While Shell did admit to causing the pollution, the company refused to clean up the area, claims the neighborhood association, citing a "clause they say lets them off the hook because more than 10 years had lapsed from the sale of the property to the time the pollution was discovered."

The water board, however, disagreed.

The Associated Press reports that Shell has not yet decided whether to appeal the water board's order.

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