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Soil Tests Beneath Building May Corroborate Claims By OC Workers

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ORANGE (CBS) — Test results released Tuesday could give some weight to claims by a group of workers, who believe that their building is to blame for birth defects, migraines and even cancer.

Some former workers of the building located at 840 North Eckoff Street are suing the city.

“I was devastated; devastated – devastated – devastated, said Sarah Kirk.

Just days after the birth of Kirk’s son, she learned the shocking news – he was born with severe birth defects.

“Still having hope and still having talks with him, you know. I know you’re going to… prove them wrong, kind of thing,” she said.

Ten years later, that hope is gone.

“But he is very special and we love him and he is a gift to us,” Kirk said.

She said she was told the cause was not genetic, but rather an in utero assault, meaning that something happened while she was pregnant that affected the fetus.

“We’ve had to face decisions that no parent should have to face,” she said.

During her pregnancy she worked long hours in the adoption services room on the first floor of the Orange County Social Services building, which was once occupied by National Oilwell Varco.

That company manufactures oil drilling equipment.

In a lawsuit filed in 2010, Kirk and other plaintiffs allege that the toxic chemicals left in the soil are the causes of diseases and birth defects.

In a letter dated in 2010, Kirk’s attorneys ask the county to do soil testing under the building. This past weekend — more than a year later — the county did the tests.

They did not release exact amounts of what they found, but they said they found levels of an industrial solvent, known to be hazardous to human health, warranting further investigation.

The Orange County Employee Association asked the county to immediately take action to evacuate and close the building.

Instead, the county is moving 70 social workers to an adjacent building.

“I feel like I’m being moved from the fire into the frying pan and I think they should test the whole site,” said Debra Martin, one of the workers being moved.

Orange County Social Services declined an on camera interview, but maintained that their employees are safe.

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