This week’s blog series, “Railroading Runkle Canyon?” will continue into next week because of the sheer amount of material we’re covering. Three more posts will cover the Runkle Canyon cleanup plan public comments by Bill Bowling, D’Lanie Blaze and EnviroReporter. A fourth blog post will look at all these comments and what they may mean for the new toxics department honcho in charge of the “cleanup” of Runkle Canyon and the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, Rick Brausch.
We interrupted the series to cover the sacking of the Runkle Canyon and Rocketdyne Department of Toxic Substances Control projects manager, Norm Riley, in “Coup de Goo.”
Riley’s departure was met with mixed responses from the community, but we were heartened by acting director of DTSC, Maziar Movassagh’s affirmation that the department considers the Rangers’ and others’ comments helpful.
“This department takes the public comments very seriously,” Movassaghi told EnviroReporter.com. “We’re going to look at Runkle Canyon with clean eyes. We are not going to delay this [voluntary cleanup with KB Home].
“We’ve got to respond to people. The worst thing the government can do is open a black box and say ‘send in your comments’ [and get no response]. They wonder what happened to their tax dollars.”
Okay, then. That’s encouraging.
So was an August 12 letter we got from DTSC’s Cypress office about amending the Aerojet Chino Hills website to accurately reflect exactly where the polluted 800-acre site actually is located. We had addressed the issue in our July 23 post “Does DTSC know where Aerojet Chino Hills is?”:
It appears that the location of this $46 million-and-counting cleanup of unexploded bombs, munitions and depleted uranium shell fragments has moved onto the Greg Norman Signature Golf Course at the Vellano Country Club!
The center of the cleanup looks to be between one hole and the putting green which makes you wonder what kind of club a golfer should use when whacking around live rounds that sometimes have to be “blown in place” if they are too dangerous to excavate. Does the golfer still yell “FORE!” or, more appropriately, “DUCK!”
DTSC responded in a letter to EnviroReporter.com:
Thank you for bringing to the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC’s) attention an error in the precise location of the subject facility on DTSC’s Envirostor Web page. DTSC has slightly adjusted the latitude and longitude to more accurately show the facility location. DTSC strives to maintain accurate information about all of its facilities and greatly appreciates it when our public stakeholders take the time to point out any errors that have occurred.”
EnviroReporter.com isn’t actually a “public stakeholder” – that’s a designation usually reserved for residents, businesses and environmental groups that have an interest in the sites DTSC makes sure are cleaned up. We are an environmental news website.
But what the hey, huh? It’s gratifying that the department would look at EnviroReporter.com’s blog to find out it had posted four maps that showed Aerojet Chino Hills, a contaminated Cold War-era facility, located next to the putting green on a fancy golf course.
So it was with some surprise that we went to the Aerojet Chino Hills map page, under the “Map” tab, only to see that nothing has changed. Sure enough, even now, three weeks after getting that snail-mail letter, the DTSC Envirostor page hasn’t been touched and the polluted complex lies yards away from the tony golf course’s clubhouse.
But that’s not the worst of it. A letter written to a Chino Hills stakeholder last month by the same DTSC person who wrote the August 12 missive to EnviroReporter.com, says in part:
Aerojet has completed all required corrective actions relating to chemical impacts to soil, surface water and subsurface water.
This year, DTSC accepted clean closure for the former Open Burn/Open Detonation unit of the Aerojet Chino Hills property, where Aerojet treated ordnance (under permit from DTSC) that did not meet military specifications.
Apparently, DTSC’s Cypress office didn’t consider even one of EnviroReporter.com’s 15 pages comments about the OB/OD unit submitted May 1 to the department.
This defies common sense and the letter of the law. Our comments show that the “clean closure” for the OB/OD could be premature and a threat to humans, animals, water supplies and the environment.
No amount of hiring and firing or personnel changes in DTSC will make a difference if the department itself is plagued by institutional ineptness. Taxpaying community members, especially those in living in polluted areas, deserve better.