"I have found case law that establishes Caltrans liable for the contamination," writes Salvatore D'Anna in an email. D'Anna believes the discovery will put the brakes on Lemon Grove's plans to realign Lemon Grove Avenue and prevent the City from acquiring two large properties through eminent domain, one of which is D'Anna's office.
The City encountered a speed bump when high levels of arsenic were found on one of the properties, a self-storage center on North Avenue. According to D'Anna, the City blamed the contamination on a lumberyard that operated on the site from 1928 to 1959, and he is convinced that the City has used the presence of contamination to negotiate a better deal with the property owner, since the polluted property requires environmental remediation.
And while D'Anna believes there is contamination and agrees it most likely came from the lumberyard, he says the City is withholding the fact that Caltrans was the previous owner of the tainted land, and Caltrans spread the arsenic by grading the area before selling it to the current owners.
In February, D'Anna wrote to Caltrans Director Randell Iwasaki, explaining the situation: "The City of Lemon Grove has gone to great lengths to hide this environmental issue from Caltrans to avoid the risk of Caltrans denying their encroachment permit and has attempted to hide Caltrans' previous ownership of the property from the current owner in order to advance purchase negotiations of the property due to the cost of remediation."
D'Anna claims to have found a legal precedent that would make Caltrans liable for the contamination.
Yet to hear back from Caltrans, D'Anna awaits the March 19 court date and hopes that he and his neighbors will not be forced to vacate their properties for what he calls an "unnecessary realignment project."