Railroading Runkle Canyon?

Railroading Runkle Canyon

EnviroReporter.com – August 15, 2009

Special week-long series

StopRunkledyne.com, the website of the Radiation Rangers in Simi Valley, noted an inauspicious anniversary last week – August 13 marked exactly a half-year since the group sent the Department of Toxic Substances Control their Radiation Rangers Runkle Canyon Response Plan Comments.

The 58 pages of comments and questions for DTSC regard Runkle Canyon, the 1,595-acre property hard on the border of the nuclear area of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory where KB Home hopes to build 461 homes after fulfilling a “voluntary cleanup agreement” with the department.

The Rangers expressed their frustration in their new website header “No Peace in the Valley – What is going on in Runkle Canyon?,” the Radiation Rangers write:

On February 13, 2009, the Radiation Rangers sent our 58 pages of Radiation Rangers Runkle Canyon Response Plan Comments to the Department of Toxic Substances control. That is exactly half a year ago! And not one word out of DTSC about our comments and the comments of the other concerned folks, all of which are below our “Runkle Canyon Reality Check.”

Yet DTSC has not been silent. On July 29, DTSC’s Norm Riley, who is in charge of the Voluntary Cleanup Agreement between the state and would-be Runkle Canyon developer KB Home, said this about the place at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Workgroup Meeting:

With respect to the Runkle Canyon project, we have not yet approved the response plan that was submitted by the developer and the developer therefore was not able to proceed with removal of tar material and additional testing prescribed by DTSC until such time as the response plan is reviewed. My hope is that we will be able to approve that response plan in the next few weeks but I don’t know exactly when it’ll happen.

What happened to our comments? When is DTSC, following a legal practice mandated by state law, going to answer our comments and questions about this place that has high levels of strontium-90, arsenic, vanadium, chromium, nickel, trichloroethylene, perchlorate, barium and cadmium? Do the people of the Simi and San Fernando valleys look anything less than vigilant about this site? Do we look like we’ve forgotten that construction of Runkle Canyon will make airborne over 112 tons of dust impacted with strontium-90? Do we look like we’ve forgotten that the developer has said it will remove giant slag mountains with benzo(a)anthracene in order to fulfill this cleanup plan, an undertaking so large that it will take hundreds of truck loads of slag being hauled away to complete the job?

The StopRunkledyne.com website expressed a frustration felt by a number folks, especially after the Simi Valley Acorn came out with an article by Carissa Marsh, on August 14 entitled “Still no word on Runkle.”

The piece included interviews with Simi Valley Mayor Miller, Councilmember Glen Becerra, Runkle Canyon LLC representative Keith Jajko and DTSC’s Norm Riley.

“We want to make sure that the investigation of the site is adequate and so we’re being very thorough about looking at the proposal for additional sampling,” Riley was quoted as saying.

EnviroReporter.com contacted Marsh and asked if the subject of the numerous citizen comments on the plan were brought up during her conversation with Riley and the other interviewees and was informed it had not.

The article also stated that “Work under the draft plan entails additional soil sampling for strontium-90 and cesium-137 in the proposed development’s nonresidential areas—which are closest to the field lab—and the removal of a small amount of tar material from drainage areas.”

No mention of the copious amount of comments, and reference to “removal of a small of tar material,” got our attention because as we have covered the Runkle Canyon Response Plan in “Simi, we have a problem” and “Mountains of Goo” and noted that the developer’s plan for removing the “tar material” which is actually toxic benzo(a)anthracene, “include the mass grading and removal of the aggregate piles in the ‘Fish Tail’ area. If additional tar material is discovered during future grading activities it will be managed appropriately.”

So what did happen to the Runkle Canyon Response Plan comments? Why haven’t any of the comments, including EnviroReporter.com’s, been responded to? Why do Riley’s recent quotes in the Acorn and at the July 29 Santa Susana Field Laboratory meeting suggest that they haven’t been in the mix at all other than an unexplained “proposal for additional sampling”?

We put these questions to Riley August 14 in an e-mail:

In recent coverage of Runkle Canyon, such as in today’s Simi Valley Acorn article, there is no mention of the comments submitted to DTSC by me, the Radiation Rangers, Christina Walsh, Bill Bowling, D’Lanie Blaze and Dan Hirsch.

Indeed, Norm made no mention of the comments at the last SSFL Workgroup meeting.

What happened to responses to those comprehensive comments? Isn’t the department supposed to consider the comments and questions before approving the Response Plan and adjust the plan after considering the comments when applicable?

We expect that Riley will answer those questions will inform our readers when he does. We are also going to look at what Riley and other government officials have said about public participation in the Runkle Canyon cleanup process, what the law actually says about public input, and what the Radiation Rangers and others wrote in those comments.

This is a lot of compelling and comprehensive information so we are planning a full week of coverage about the Runkle Canyon Response Plan. One thing is for sure; the Radiation Rangers have made clear that they are drawing a line in the goo in Runkle Canyon:

No we haven’t forgotten any of this. We still hope that Norm Riley and DTSC do what the law mandates they do. But it has been half a year and we’re still waiting. Anything less than a full response to all our comments, and their incorporation into the cleanup plan, will be unacceptable to the citizens who will have to bear the consequences of development of Runkle Canyon.

We are not going away. And neither is KB Home, even with a crashed real estate market, severe drought, and the multitude of contamination problems that exist in Runkle Canyon.

We will continue to be vigilant and will make sure to hold the responsible parties in Runkle Canyon, and the City of Simi Valley, to the letter of the law.

Next “Railroading Runkle Canyon?” blog posts:
Runkle and the Rule of Law
Radiation Rangers Runkle Canyon Comments
Cleanup Rocketdyne.org’s Runkle Canyon Comments
ACME’s Runkle Canyon Comments
The Aerospace.org’s Runkle Canyon Comments
EnviroReporter.com‘s Runkle Canyon Comments
EnviroReporter.com‘s Runkle Canyon Comments Analysis

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  1. LemonMeister says:

    The exact same thing happens when you send certified mail to Jeffery Mezger the CEO at KB Home. No one responds – A KB HOME SUCKS! Keep up the hard work I’m adding this link to my twitter account http://www.twitter.com/kbhomesucks and to the link page at http://www.akbhomesucks.com Not sure what kind of game these corporations and DTSC? Our voice is growing, just Google KB Home Sucks!

  2. Margery Brown says:

    After all this time, the lack of a timely response to the Rangers’ comments is absolutely unacceptable! In fact, it comes off as arrogant, and it may even possibly be illegal.

    What is the use of having deadlines, if they are not enforced?

    Weak excuses of “being careful” will simply not wash, unless, possibly, a government agency is looking for a valid reason to wash one of their workers right out of their hair.

    But how about all of the citizen-activists who are waiting for an answer to their comments? They played according to the rules, for what ever that is worth, and they certainly deserve better than just this useless waiting. How about an apology—for starters?

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