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[KB Home’s Runkle Canyon development is now called Arroyo Vista at the Woodlands]

EnviroReporter in Simi Valley

When KB Home signed a Voluntary Cleanup Agreement with the Department of Toxic Substances Control on April 14, 2008, the company subsequently released 41 documents for DTSC inspection.

EnviroReporter.com analyzed these 41 documents
and presented its findings to DTSC on July 3, 2008. We also provided detailed analysis of other critical documents including the sampling and tests done in the canyon by the Radiation Rangers and the city of Simi Valley.

The department did not respond to either. We even went to the effort of making these analyses easily accessible on our Runkle Canyon Interactive Timelines page. It seemed that almost none of this work was looked at by DTSC as evidenced by the department’s October 17, 2008 instructions to KB Home to come up with a Response Plan.

DTSC’s process didn’t allow comment on this document. The public, and the media, can only comment on the KB Home’s Response Plan. In the case of Runkle Canyon, significant contamination has been simply ignored.

When we began the “Railroading Runkle Canyon?” series, DTSC’s Norman E. Riley was the Project Manager for Runkle Canyon. Now he is gone and we quoted the acting director of the department, Maziar Movassaghi, in “Coup de Goo” as saying “This department takes the public comments very seriously. We’re going to look at Runkle Canyon with clean eyes.”

EnviroReporter.com’s Runkle Canyon Response Plan Comments concentrate on these 41 reports and the information in them that, in most cases, was ignored in DTSC’s instructions to KB Home and as reflected in the developer’s draft plan.

Will the new Rocketdyne and Runkle Canyon Project Manager, Rick Brausch, look at these comments, and the others we’ve posted and analyzed in this series, and glean from them important information that will assist in assessing the problems in the canyon? Will Brausch have competent team members ready and willing to tackle these data and incorporate them into the final cleanup plan?

If history is any teacher, the answer is no. The reporting on this website regarding Runkle Canyon, Aerojet Chino Hills and Corporate Pointe at West Hills, shows a repeated pattern of incompetence, unsound science and ignorance of environmental law.

Yet a glimmer of light now shines as DTSC has made a major move to right the listing ships that are called the Rocketdyne and Runkle Canyon cleanups. Perhaps Brausch will seize the opportunity to use these analyses which his department has so far failed to do.

Following are EnviroReporter.com’s Runkle Canyon Response Plan comments:

February 13, 2009
Mr. John Naginis, DTSC Senior Engineering Geologist
9211 Oakdale Avenue
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Regarding: Michael Collins’ comments and questions regarding the Runkle Canyon Response Plan

1. There are a number of very important problems with the developer’s 41 submitted reports that are analyzed on my website EnviroReporter.com at http://enviroreporter.com/files/KB41docs.pdf and I request that DTSC closely examine these documents and incorporate any information therein into their final determination of environmental conditions at Runkle Canyon.

These documents have and will impact DTSC’s decisions about Runkle Canyon. I have clipped the relevant sections and, as is our practice above, put our questions to DTSC in italics bracketed by *asterisks*.

Please answer our questions as they are relevant and crucial to a full understanding of environmental conditions in Runkle Canyon as related by these 41 documents KB Home supplied DTSC.

1A. October 30, 2007: Runkle Canyon_Larry Walker_Water Quality Issues Lttr_103007

Larry Walker Associates’ Tetra Tech analysis for Simi Valley deems Runkle Canyon safe. “None of the surface waters in the Simi Valley area,” the analysis says, “are designated as having a [Municipal and Domestic Supply] beneficial use. Therefore, the State drinking water standards do not apply to Runkle Canyon or downstream surface waters.”

However, the very Tetra Tech report it was supposed to analyze says “Potential human consumption of surface water is reasonably possible under the Municipal and Domestic Supply, Water Contact Recreation, and Non-contact Water Recreation beneficial use scenarios. In these types of situations, water quality criteria, such as the MCLs, PRGs, PHGs, and NLs, may be used as screening values to determine whether further evaluation of surface water may need to be considered.”

*1A. Is DTSC aware of this City analysis and the appropriateness of it? Please explain and comment.*

1B. August 10, 2007: “Runkle Canyon_Geocon_Summary of Arsenic and Other Metals Results_81007” available at http://www.envirostor.dtsc.ca.gov/public/community_involvement/4707166373/Runkle%20Canyon_Geocon_Summary%20of%20Arsenic%20and%20Other%20Metals%20Results_81007.pdf

KB Home’s consultant, Geocon Consultants, Inc. 1) mischaracterizes the amount of heavy metals found in Runkle Canyon by using a set of standards not as protective of public health as the EPA’s “preliminary remediation goals” (PRG). 2) The consultant incorrectly compares background values from various reports instead of utilizing the benchmark Kearney report on California soils partly written by DTSC. 3)Also, Geocon does not include the Radiation Ranger’s May 18, 2007 report in its analysis even though the lab used by the Rangers, Pat-Chem, was the same lab the city of Simi Valley used on July 2, 2008, the report of which is included in the consultant’s analysis.

1. Geocon compared the heavy metal results to the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) California Human Health Screening Levels (CHHSLs) for residential land use. The developer’s consultant fails to note CHHSL’s disclaimer which reads in part:

This document is not intended to establish policy or regulation. The Human Health Screening Levels presented here are not to serve as: 1) a stand-alone decision making tool, 2) a substitute for guidance for the preparation of baseline human health risk assessments, 3) a rule to determine if a waste is hazardous under the state or federal regulations, 4) a rule to determine when the release of hazardous chemicals must be reported to the overseeing regulatory agency, 5) set of final cleanup or action levels to be applied at contaminated sites or 6) a guarantee that an oversight regulatory agency will determine that a project is adequately studied or agree with the conclusions of the site investigation and risk assessment report.
[snip]
The CHHSLs should NOT be used to determine when impacts at a site should be reported to a regulatory agency. [their emphasis]

Yet the report notes that “Arsenic is the only metal reported for the soil samples and asphaltic material sample at concentrations in excess of CHHSLs. The CHHSLs for arsenic, which are 0.07 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) for residential land use…”

However, the EPA’s PRG for arsenic in residential soil is 0.062 mg/kg meaning that the Rangers’ result of 34 mg/kg was 548 times this and the city of Simi Valley’s lower result was still more than 20 times the PRG.

As we have noted below and in our articles, there were significantly high amounts of nickel, vanadium, barium, cadmium, chromium and lead found in both the Rangers’ and the city of Simi Valley’s tests as well.

2. Geocon used the wrong background numbers for comparison to the Runkle Canyon results. According to the Kearney report, for example, arsenic averages 3.5 mg/kg in California soil making the 34 mg/kg result nearly ten times that. According to the September 2005 “Soil Background Report” for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory for Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy, Table 4.1 shows the lab’s average reading for arsenic, from 41 samples tested, is 5.246 mg/kg which the 34 mg/kg result exceeds by over six times. These are more accurate background comparison values than the ones Geocon used.

3. By not including the Rangers’ Pat-Chem report, Geocon has skewed the results even though the lab’s limited sampling was just as valid as the city of Simi Valley’s limited sampling.

The preceding information, and the information of our Runkle Canyon Investigation, EnviroReporter.com maintains that Geocon is making a false conclusion at the end of the soils part of its report that isn’t based on sound science and also ignores an obvious possible source for the contamination – Rocketdyne:

Based on the reported historic use of the Site there does not appear to be a potential man made source of the arsenic reported in the soils. Because the reported concentrations of arsenic fall within the published ranges of naturally occurring arsenic, and the fact that a potential man made source for arsenic at the site is not apparent from the reported historical use of the property, it is our opinion that the arsenic reported in the soil is naturally occurring and does not warrant additional investigation.

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