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Oil Wells Next To School Restarted After Neighbors Try To Get Them Capped

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Oil wells ironically across the street from a school devoted to environmental studies have been restarted—just after locals tried to get them capped.Freeport-McMoRan owns the dozen or so wells in Arlington Heights, which are just across Washington Boulevard from Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Studies. Locals used an obscure city code to compel the Fire Department to demand that idle wells be either capped or restarted. You won't believe what happened next: the operators decided to restart them.

"We thought we had the upper hand," Jeff Camp, president of the United Neighborhoods Neighborhood Council, told the L.A. Times. "I can't believe it."

Freeport-McMoRan said in a statement that the wells are operating within state and local regulations, and that the wells were inspected by officials before they were restarted. According to the Times, three of the wells at the site had failed pressure tests before they were reactivated. Only one was plugged, and the other two were subsequently found to be in compliance following further tests.

The main concern among residents was that the wells, if left idle, would deteriorate and leak pollutants into the air or groundwater. There were also fears that if Freeport-McMoRan fell into total financial ruin (the company is in debt and gas prices are pretty low right now), the city's taxpayers would be on the hook for cleaning up the old wells. Opponents also raised the issue that the certain wells lacked proper permits to restart, but Freeport-McMoRan says the wells were only restarted to ensure they worked and have since been idled as the permitting process takes place.

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As Curbed points out, Freeport-McMoRan is the same company whose oil drilling operations in West Adams sprayed a "fine mist" of oil onto houses and cars in 2011.

The Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Studies opened in 2010, and was named after two prominent figures of the modern environmental movement: Rachel Carson and former Vice Presdient Al Gore. Ironically, the grounds the schools were built on were contaminated and the soil had to be replaced before the campus opened. A Times report from just before its opening noted that enough soil "to hold a four-story building" had to be removed from the site due to contaminants from its previous industrial tenants. The report also noted the oil well site, but said "officials said they've found no associated risks."