Runkle Canyon Tanks

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KB Home stumbles at Simi Valley Planning Commission meeting seeking project extension

“Wild Bill” Bowling of the Radiation Rangers took offense when KB Home honcho Tom DiPrima denied that there were any tanks labeled for underground storage of flammable liquids with tubes leading into the windmill well at Runkle Canyon. After all, it was Bowling who photographed the windmill well in 2009.

“Who is this guy that comes in here and lies in the face of the commissioners?” Bowling says of the May 23 meeting of the Simi Valley Planning Commission. “For years we’ve seen KB Home mislead the community but this is the first time we’ve seen a KB representative and what does he do? He insults us and he insults the commissioners’ intelligence.”

Indeed, a review of the video of the meeting, where the Simi Valley Planning Commission was to vote on giving KB Home a 5 year extension to build 461 residences in Runkle Canyon, captures a number of instances where DiPrima, executive vice president of KB Home’s Southern California division representing Runkle Canyon LLC, makes statements that seem at odds with the truth.

SEE RUNKLE CANYON WINDMILL WELL WITH TANKS May 30, 2012

“So to your knowledge those tanks that we’ve seen the pictures of are not on that property?” asked planning commissioner Scott Santino, leveling his unblinking gaze at DiPrima.

“I’ve never seen them,” DiPrima replied. “In fact I was up at the windmill well and there’s no tank there. It’s very possible these could be another windmill well that could be adjacent to our property but not on our own property. But, again, DTSC was provided full access to the property.”

In fact, the tanks are still at the property as Bowling can attest. EnviroReporter.com can confirm the authenticity of photographs Bowling took May 30 of the windmill well tanks as well as a surveillance car parked high on a dirt road above the site several hundred yards away. The hike of over a dozen miles on sometimes weed-choked Ahmanson Ranch trails lasted ten arduous hours until 11pm that night, exhausting Bowling physically but not mentally.

“When that guy from KB Home said he was up there the other day and there is no such tank, I was dumfounded,” says Bowling. “I could not believe my ears and was eager to watch it back on video. Once I did, I knew that somebody needed to prove that KB Home is lying to the city and in the past to who knows who. I decided after mapping my route on Google Earth, that I could legally take photos of the well from Ahmanson Ranch and, lo and behold, I see not only see that the tanks are still there, they’ve tipped over the big tank on its side, probably to tear off its metal ID tag, and they’ve got a guy sitting there watching over it.”

EnviroReporter.com can also verify that mountain bikers traveling downhill on that dirt road at dusk May 27 travelled past a light blue passenger van in the same spot overlooking the windmill well. The unmarked vehicle had a surveillance monitor on its steering wheel that showed a telescopic image of the windmill well, tanks and numerous 55-gallon drums first exposed by EnviroReporter.com last week in “Runkle Roulette.”

The driver took off after the bikers honking and yelling for them to stop and nearly clipped the second bicyclist roaring by going after the lead biker. After sliding to a halt on the sandy road cutting off the bicyclists with his vehicle, the man hopped out and demanded they turn around and leave.

The agitated individual wore no identification nor said who he was or what he was doing driving so dangerously to stop a pair of mountain bikers rolling down an unmarked fire road used by hikers and bikers alike. He ultimately he relented and let the pair continue downhill but not before they got a good look at the windmill well and the tanks that DiPrima claimed weren’t there.

The distant windmill well was exactly as Bowling had photographed it in 2009 and 2011.

“How can these people be trusted?” Bowling asks. “If they say their property is clean, should we take the word of these people who deny toxic storage tanks are on their property yet hire private security to guard them?”

There is only one windmill well on Runkle Canyon according to hundreds of pages of Runkle Canyon’s Final Environmental Impact Report. It was visible in photographs that the Department of Toxic Substances Control has according to press official Jim Marxen. “The tank has shown up in our photos since 1990,” Marxen said in an email May 30, “and the tank and drums were still there last time one of our staff members was on the property in 2009.”

Marxen also confirmed that trichloroethylene (TCE) had been found in the well in 4 out of 42 samples even though there are no known plumes of TCE in the area. TCE is a rocket engine solvent, among other things, and was used heavily at Rocketdyne. The chemical is a carcinogen and volatile organic compound and has fouled Rocketdyne’s groundwater with over 530,000 gallons of the goo. Nevertheless, Marxen said that DTSC would not rescind its No Further Action (NFA) on the property.

Bowling says that’s hogwash. “This is a well for livestock to drink, taking water from the drinking water aquifer,” Bowling tells EnviroReporter.com. “Pouring chemicals into it is a crime because it is illegal dumping. This is also at the headwaters of a blue-line stream protected by the Clean Water Act – Las Virgenes Creek. Nothing else should be in the windmill well water other than water. That tank has been there for at least 22 years so its contaminants may have spread far and wide by now. DTSC should have tested those tanks and told KB Home to get rid of them and the drums before signing off on the place.”

DiPrima took a novel approach to the problem of the industrial-sized toxic flammable liquid tank with hoses running from it into the Runkle Canyon windmill well – deny it’s there.

“I’ve never seen it,” DiPrima told another commissioner. ”We keep hearing these mysterious stories but DTSC has yet to find anything.”

DiPrima’s false insinuation that the residents were making up the tank story indicates the confidence the KB Home man, who didn’t once utter the name of his employer, had that the planning commissioners would side with the company over the residents. Yet with multiple sources of proof that these tanks are indeed still there, it seems that DiPrima may have prematurely counted on a favorable vote that night.

DiPrima and Runkle Canyon LLC’s attorney, Preston Brooks of Cox, Castle & Nicholson in Los Angeles, also made key “factual inaccuracies,” a phrase Brooks used to describe the comments of the public.

“Every issue that was raised in public comment was tested for,” Brooks asserted to the commissioners despite the presence of people from the community behind him in the audience who have demanded tests of the creek water since 2007, finally doing it themselves. Brooks claimed that “[A]ccess [was] allowed everywhere,”

The DTSC was indeed given access everywhere but as recently as the May 17, 2012 DTSC-hosted SSFL Open House, USEPA officials told Bowling and the Reverend John Southwick that KB Home lawyers were giving the federal agency the runaround over testing Offsite Well 21 (OS-21) — the windmill well.

When asked by a planning commissioner if he knew about KB Home not giving the USEPA access to OS-21, Brooks responded “Not that I’m aware of.”

When the Runkle Canyon extension item came up on the agenda, DiPrima and Brooks were preceded in their remarks to the Simi Valley Planning Commission by the planning staff. Planner Todd Militello led with the first ‘factual inaccuracy’ of the evening saying that in reviewing the information to make an environmental determination about the property, DTSC “reviewed all existing reports.”

Actually, the department did not include in its December 17, 2010 “No Further Action” (NFA) decision two key reports on Runkle Creek water heavy metals that the Radiation Rangers conducted May 18, 2007 which were followed by the city’s own testing July 2, 2007, guided to the same spots to sample by Southwick. Both tests showed high levels of arsenic, nickel and vanadium with the city’s sampling and results for the water even higher than the earlier Radiation Rangers’ tests.

Instead of looking at these crucial data on the heavy metals contamination in Runkle Creek, DTSC instead opted to take just two samples from the creek that they based their determination upon that the surface water was fine. But most curious was the DTSC finding that the two samples had no arsenic at all, since all surface water in the area has arsenic in it, most of it natural in places other than downhill of Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

Not only did DTSC not dismiss its two water samples as sampling and/or laboratory flubs, it ignored the Radiation Rangers and city’s two tests even after promising then-Mayor Paul Miller and Councilmember Glen Becerra to do so in a community meeting about Runkle Canyon in council chambers November 17, 2008.

“So just to clarify; you are looking at our report,” Becerra asked subsequently-sacked DTSC project manager for both the Runkle Canyon assessment and the cleanup of the entire Rocketdyne site, Norman E. Riley. “The citizen group that submitted their report; you’re looking at their information as well?”

“Absolutely, that’s correct, yes,” Riley replied, likely knowing full well that the department would not look at these tests worth thousands of dollars and, not incidentally, demanded by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board as part of a ‘blue-line’ stream assessment of Runkle Creek. The developer at the time, Peter Kiesecker, blew off that requirement in the Final Environmental Impact Report for Runkle Canyon as documented in “Runkle Roulette.”

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  1. Jennifer K says:

    In setting up a single purpose entity to own land at Runkle, and have houses built to sell to consumers, it is axiomatic that the land owner/seller entity be organized in a way to prevent people harmed by the entity’s activities being able to get a money judgment against the “deep pockets” controlling the development entity. That appears to have gone on at Runkle.

    The latest twist in this sort of standard plan to avoid liability to homebuyers and their family members who become ill is the bankrupting of the development entity at the first sign of trouble after construction and home sales are complete. The goal of such a bankruptcy is to have the single purpose entity AND ITS OWNERS AND THEIR AFFILIATES be protected, by a Bankruptcy Court ORDER in a Chapter 11 Plan, which provides that the developer and its owners, employees and lawyers cannot be sued over “construction defects” or “failure to disclose” or for any other claim of any kind or nature. For projects with problems, a Chapter 11 after construction and sales are complete has become the world’s best safety blanket, because the home buyers and their families are forbidden by an enforceable Federal court order from suing for any reason.

    As a result, KB Homes, as manager of the single purpose entity which owns Runkle and which wants to build on Runkle, can trudge forward, unafraid to sell homes to unsuspecting consumers even if the homebuyers might be exposed to radioactive elements or carcinogenic toxic chemicals at their new homes or from hiking above them.

    As to potential City of Simi Valley liability for allowing construction of homes on land presenting risks of contamination, it’s simply not a problem. Many years ago a brave lady in Simi Valley named Peggy Finch led her neighbors in suing the city, among others, because their homes were built on top of a garbage dump which had been covered with a shallow layer of soil. After many years of litigation, the courts ruled the city had no liability to the homeowners even if the city made a grave error in allowing home construction over a garbage dump. I’ve often wondered if Rocketdyne used that dump, and what exactly those houses were built on, perhaps carcinogenic VOCs which would up-gas into the houses.

    In the early 1980′s Peggy and her neighbors were early opponents of development at Runkle, and it’s as if she had an instinctive sense about the Rocketdyne-Runkle-Houses-Built-on–Dump connection. That brave woman, Peggy Finch, died years ago, of cancer, while living in her house “down gradient” from Runkle and Rocketdyne.

    The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) issued its “no further action” letter concerning Runkle in the waning days of the Schwarzenegger Administration, when DTSC’s Director knew he would not be appointed to head the agency in the Brown Administration. The DTSC’s current Director was the leader of San Francisco’s “environmental” department at the time that County approved development of a project called Hunter’s Point, without protecting that area’s residents from asbestos which would become airborne and put the local residents at risk of respiratory harm.

    It’s very clear to me that neither the City of Simi Valley nor the California Department of Toxic Substances Control want to engage in protracted litigation over the safety of building housing at Runkle, to protect prospective homeowners. The property owner will trudge forward, the homes will be built, and our grandchildren, as law school graduates, will be left scratching their heads trying to figure out why California Governors, why California Directors of Toxic Substances Control and why City Councils of Simi Valley simply didn’t give a damn…even though they knew.

  2. Ben Parks says:

    Strontiums 89 & 90 take up in living matter. Has the thought occurred that perhaps algae and bacteria in and around the Runkle tanks in question (also, in fact, the Chatsworth Reservoir, as a commentor mentioned previously) might just as well harbor radio strontiums and yttriums? Learn here:

    http://dissensus-japan.blogspot.com/2012/06/easy-guide-on-biological-concentration.html

    It has been known for a while now that DTSC refuses to answer questions regarding testing of plants and biota in and around Rocketdyne including offsite parcels impacted by contamination. Maybe CalEPA needs more staff biologists and less staff geologists when it comes to testing for radio particles. DTSC geologists term everything as ‘soil’; when, in fact, there exists an abundance of poisoned living matter — aka. “causative agents” — that get ignored by CalEPA’s incomplete science, ad infinitum.

    It will be even more interesting to learn in coming days (ergo: years) just how CalEPA intends to RESTORE NATURE back to her original state.

  3. lucidf8 says:

    I like the idea of a drone, with a video feed running images. It would provide some standoff room, and if it’s a hobbyist model, it would be legal to fly it. It needs loiter time and enough electrical power, though. Doable, I imagine.

  4. SBLocal says:

    “I did not have visual relations with that tank.”

  5. Alexis Murphy says:

    How about asking Terry for help in obtaining a predator-type drone to monitor the situation and start surveilling?

    —————

    First they disperse (contaminants), dribble (information out very slowly), deny (opportunity to get it right), and deceive (misinformation, minimize, downplay, have lawyers lie for them).

    —————

    One can deny reality, but one cannot deny the consequences of a denied reality.

  6. lucidf8 says:

    Unbelievable. This makes me think that one must assume the worst when it comes to protecting the health of the public. It would be great to have a Ustream feed running showing the well, the tanks, and the surveillance car during the next public hearing. Use a projector to show what’s going on while the interested parties say what they believe to be the truth. That would provide a humorous counterpoint to their comments.

  7. Perry Callas says:

    These lying sacks would be funny if they weren’t poisoning the groundwater. At what point does the absurdity violate some sort of universal rule and just cave in upon itself?

  8. Scott Smith says:

    Wow–caught with their dirty hand in cookie jar again. This must be the longest-running expose in history!

  9. Joan Bien says:

    We all know that lawyers never lie. Never, ever. Perhaps its the condescending tone that irks those being lied to. “I’VE never seen them” is akin to No One Else Has Complained. Well, then, if YOU’VE never seen them, they must not exist! As Shakespeare once wrote, “First, kill all the lawyers.”
    As for Simi officials, they seem eager to reject real science when the pay off is big enough. Like global warming, Koch brothers say they aren’t convinced that it is a problem. THEY aren’t convinced. Well then. Perhaps they could question the veracity of gravity.
    I wonder, hypothetically, what would happen if a development were to be built on poisoned land (somewhere) and, somehow, don’t know how, word got out to potential buyers that those homes are rife with future illness and death. Wonder how much that would cost KB? Not everyone can be bought off. Or shot. Or run down. Did they think of that?
    Bullies are the biggest cowards.

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