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Dr. Chris Whipple, Principal of ENVIRON (Lt.) with Dr. Michael D. Pratt, Head of Brentwood School, spoke with EnviroReporter.com Jan. 30.
Dr. Chris Whipple, Principal of ENVIRON (Lt.) with Dr. Michael D. Pratt, Head of Brentwood School, spoke with EnviroReporter.com Jan. 30.

In a January 30, 2007 letter to the parents and colleagues of students of Brentwood School, Head of School, Dr. Michael D. Pratt, revealed that the exclusive private school on leased West LA VA land had hired two firms to evaluate school soil for radioactive and chemical contamination first reported by Los Angeles CityBeat and EnviroReporter.com last May. “I am delighted to report that our additional environmental testing has confirmed that there is no radiation on our school grounds above normal background levels,” Pratt wrote.

Emeryville-based Dr. Chris Whipple headed an ENVIRON International team last December in a three-phase investigation and testing of the property that included surface soil testing, aquatic center soil borings, and subsurface examination of the school’s athletic fields. “We took a fair number of samples and we didn’t get any detects of tritium or carbon-14,” Whipple said. “Our understanding from the VA had always been that there never had been radioactive material buried under the site that we occupy and that in the process of excavation, no radioactive materials were found,” added Pratt. The headmaster added that another environmental firm, URS Corporation, had conducted an “independent peer review” of ENVIRON’s conclusions, giving a thumbs up.

Longtime Brentwood nuke dump observer, Dr. Bennett Ramberg, was less than impressed with the four subsurface coring samples that were drilled in areas suspected of containing radioactive ash debris. “It appears that they didn’t follow the standard EPA protocol for boring,” Ramberg said. “Common sense dictates that four borings over such a large, multi-acre area is clearly not adequate.”

Los Angeles CityBeat and EnviroReporter.com had written May 18, 2006 that a September 2005 PricewaterhouseCoopers report had said that radioactive waste was buried under the school’s fields. The PwC study had noted that “Either the public was not informed as to the contaminates under the athletic fields, or these environmental hazards did not trigger a significant negative public reaction from nearby residents (including parents of students using the fields).”

Former Brentwood School student raises stink over phantom quotes

In early February, Los Angeles CityBeat received an irate call from a former student of Brentwood School, Michael Ritter, who is now the publisher of the online Saturday Night magazine. Ritter claimed that CityBeat had attributed quotes to him that were supposed to be off-the-record. The problem with his allegations was the quotes were never published in the paper. Add to that the fact that the quotes were on-the-record as Ritter had written an unsolicited e-mail to EnviroReporter.com last year when our initial expose, “Real Hot Property,” debuted in both the paper and this website.

Ritter’s critical comments of the school, which were on this site for twelve hours January 30 before removal due to space considerations, had nevertheless caught the attention of the institution. At a recent alumni baseball game, Ritter was questioned by Emily Manning, Brentwood School’s Alumni Relations Manager, who later faxed Ritter’s quotes to him suggesting they had been in CityBeat. “They were upset with me,” Ritter told EnviroReporter.com. “They were wondering where I was coming from.”

It was pretty clear to us where Ritter was coming from when he wrote this May 19, 2006:

“As a student who attended Brentwood School (graduated in 2001) and who has played MANY baseball games on the Barrington Fields and who walked through the gully (that is now the athletic field) many times to play sports at the VA field, I am well aware of everything you speak about,” Ritter told us. “For [Brentwood School Assistant Headmaster] Don Winters to say ‘If any of that had been underneath the field, you can be assured that we would have had a whole different attitude about the project,’ is absolutely ridiculous.

“How about you ask him about the syringes students found while walking to football practice?” Ritter continued in a letter written a day after we broke the initial story in May 2006. “I walked through that field everyday. It smelled and you knew what was below there. Everyone did. And every time some one questioned it, it was brushed under the table. From the report released by CARES written by PricewaterhouseCoopers stating that either the public didn’t know about the hazardous site or didn’t care is also BS. People knew about it, it was just kept very hush. The VA has been hiding this for years and will continue to deny deny deny. Brentwood School will do the same.”

The Radiation Blame Game

The Los Angeles Times picked up the VA dump story November 30, 2006 but soon issued a correction that stated, in part, that “The study was conducted by MicroTech LLC, a separate company hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and its findings were contained in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ broader report.”

This correction rankles Anthony Jimenez, the head of MicroTech LLC, an “award-winning, fast growing Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned and small business,” according to the website of the Vienna, Virginia-based company. “I didn’t provide anything to PwC and you’re about the 400th reporter that has called me to ask me about that,” Jimenez said Jan. 30. “I don’t work for PwC. I never worked for PwC. PwC is a sub on my contract – I’m not a sub on theirs. I don’t know how it ended up where it ended up because I’ve never done any work for them.”

“If VA intends to throw me under the bus, I’d be very interested to see the document they’re trying to do it with,” Jimenez said. “The point is that right now, I would love to hear if it’s Secretary Nicholson, or whoever it is at the VA, I would love to hear what they have to say about any report I provided them.”

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