Brentwood nuke dump controversy mushrooms

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According to Pratt, Secretary Nicholson is preparing to announce that MicroTech LLC was wrong in that there was and is radioactive debris buried under Brentwood School’s athletic fields. In a January 22, 2007 letter to Nicholson, Pratt wrote that a “report MicroTech LLC prepared for the VA” that “stated that radioactive biomedical waste was buried under land Brentwood School shares with the VA” was “simply a mistake,” and requested that Secretary Nicholson clarify the situation.

Pratt, who consults regularly with the West LA VA’s director Charles M. Dorman, apparently has knowledge of the source of this explosive PwC information that EnviroReporter.com asked for and was refused. Our request for the PricewaterhouseCoopers/VA contract to evaluate 18 VA facilities, including the West LA site, for “asset realignment for enhanced services” was heavily censored. The cost of that contract, according to a Congressional source, has climbed from $9.7 to $10.5 million.

In December 2006, the VA finally fulfilled a request by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who is now the chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, for answers about the radiation findings in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report. On March 27, 2006, Waxman demanded a slew of information from the VA. “Has the public been informed that contaminates are buried under or near the location of the Brentwood School athletic facility?” Waxman asked in a letter to VA Secretary Nicholson. “Whose decision was it to leave the non-excavated radioactive medical waste in place?”

The 5,500-plus pages of VA information may or may not contain the answers regarding radioactive waste under Brentwood School that Waxman seeks. The Congressman’s staff has not fully reviewed the mass of documents but already has noted what is missing: information pertaining to the VA’s sharing (leasing) agreements with Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Fox Studios.

Testing Red Flags

VA testing contractor, Millennium Consulting, says its Phase One report is due early February even though its promised testing is incomplete. Indeed, broad swaths of land slated for walk-over testing, shown on page 14 of the plan, were missed, including the inclines of the dump’s main arroyo, land adjacent Brentwood Theatre, and most of Brentwood School.

Though Millennium’s Phase Two testing begins this Spring with 80-foot deep soil borings, groundwater analysis and risk assessment, Millennium chief Michael Noel says he won’t be revisiting Brentwood School. “It has been more than adequately addressed,” Noel said Jan. 30.

But has it? Not according to Ramberg who points out that six of ENVIRON’s borings were in a small area under construction for a pool not known to have any dumped material, while just four successful borings were made in areas known to possibly have radioactive ash waste that could have been the result of the incineration of hot lab waste and animals years ago.

“To spend over $150,000 on insufficient testing, over half a year after the information came out, would seem a waste, wouldn’t it?” said Ramberg. ”One can only speculate on why the school waited so long and what their true motivations are but fear of lawsuits would be understandable.”

Yet even those known ash pits’ placement on the school’s property by ENVIRON have come into question. The result of the school contractor’s map is a lateral ’shifting’ of where the dump actually is on page 15 of ENVIRON’s report compared with a pre-1980 map and 1995 map of the known dump. However, the actual placement of the three ash pits on the school property seem to roughly correspond to the 2000 Locus map that Environ used for reference.

Ramberg also noted that the school is pressing the VA to confirm that not only is there no radioactive waste buried on its property, but also that there never was. This could seem odd in light of the large debris mound in the center of the known dump that the VA told EnviroReporter.com in January 2006 was a result of excavating waste from under Brentwood School’s fields. The mound’s ambient radiation is twice normal background and shards of radioactive glass and a ‘hot’ syringe were found next to the mound. The syringe still lays on the ground although Noel had said he would have it analyzed for radiation.

“It would behoove Brentwood School to know what’s in that mound since they maintain, perhaps presumptuously, that no rad waste was buried on its leased land,” said Ramberg. “It’s an obvious choice for Millennium’s Phase Two that (the mound) should be cored and a determination made if there is any radiation and how hazardous it is.”

“Wherever (Millennium) sees a mound, they should bore,” Ramberg said. “It’s that simple. But don’t get too caught up in the mounds; the entire dump area shown on the maps should be bored quite deep since there is so much fill in the arroyo and over Barrington Dog Park.”

Whether any Phase Two boring takes place at all remains to be seen. Until then, the dump still remains insecure, with one of its gates wide open the last time EnviroReporter.com visited the site which is adjacent MacArthur Field.

One of the only things warning the public of the dangers of the dump, are new metal signs that prohibit trespassing or excavating. Ironically, one of these “DO NOT ENTER” signs abuts a Brentwood School soccer field, giving the wrong impression that the moneyed institution is off-limits.

Another wrong impression that concerns Ramberg is what the public might have of the accuracy of either the ENVIRON or Phase One of the Millennium tests to accurately determine radiation dangers. He noted that of half the 12 borings that ENVIRON cored, six were in approximately the same area, and just four in suspect areas. He also note ENVIRON scooped up one soil sample per acre from the 20 acres the school leases from the VA. “How representative and accurate is one sample per acre, dug no more than six inches below, when we’re talking about rad waste perhaps under 15 to 30 feet of fill?,” Ramberg added. “Not very.”

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