This was a problem when the dump was initially signed off on as safe, as we reported in our initial exposé:
On May 7, 1981, five NRC inspectors went to the Brentwood dump site and did a 45-minute walking inspection with two gamma detectors and picked up nothing but background measurements. They noted that 20 – 30 feet of “fill material and dirt” had been added to the burial sites and “there were no radioactive materials detected.”
“That’s not going to tell you anything,” Joseph Karbus, head of the Radiological Health Unit of the LA County Health Department, said at the time regarding Geiger Muller counter inspection of the dump. “You have to go down and take a core sample to find out anything.”
ENVIRON’s Whipple noted this ineffective survey as well. “I did read a report that the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] did their final site closure with a team of half a dozen people walking around the site doing a gamma scan. When I asked the NRC guy ‘why you would do a gamma scan where it was thought tritium and carbon-14 were disposed of?’, he said, ‘we wondered that too.’”
This is the same manner that Millennium swept the acres it did manage to cover in its $78,500 survey over several days in December 2006.
Whipple notes that while no students, faculty or employees may be being exposed to radiation at Brentwood School presently, if the waste were buried deep underground like the PricewaterhouseCoopers report says, that doesn’t mean they didn’t miss it in their $150,000 survey. “I can’t state positively that there is no radioactivity at the site.”
The ENVIRON chief noted that if there is radioactive material buried under Brentwood School fields, or in any unexcavated ash pits, and the land were to be further developed at sometime in the future, say for a high-rise building, there would be cause for concern. “It probably would be worthwhile to worry about exposures to the workers while they’re digging it up. Exposures to residents living in the high-rise building? Probably not.”
This scenario encapsulates the Brentwood nuke dump conundrum: does the public accept leaving radioactive waste in place, or does the VA make sure to adequately characterize the entire site in Millennium’s Phase Two and take the appropriate measures to remove any radioactive waste?
Buildup to testing Bombshell — A mid-December 2006 perspective
As a direct result of EnviroReporter.com and Los Angeles CityBeat‘s “Real Hot Property” expose on the nuke dump on Veterans Administration property in Brentwood, followed by pressure from Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the VA has hired Millennium Consulting Associates to begin testing 27 acres of land for nuclear and chemical soil and groundwater contamination. This historic initiative is outlined in the December 7 CityBeat article “Nuclear Reactions“.
Phase One of the testing concluded December 8, with a report due in late January 2007, and will cost $78,500 according to the VA. Phase Two will begin this spring and will bore up to 80 feet into the ground to search for radioactive waste, and will cost much more than the initial “walk-over” inspection and radiation measuring.
Cutting down much of the dump’s vegetation and weeds has revealed 18 mounds that register high in ambient radiation and match old maps of the biomedical disposal areas used by the VA and UCLA from 1952-1968.
EnviroReporter.com discovered more evidence of radioactive debris laying on the ground adjacent a burial mound associated with the construction of neighboring Brentwood School.
Photographs of the place past and present are in our nuke dump gallery.
EnviroReporter.com has also obtained aerial photographs taken between 1999 to 2003 that clearly show several dumping piles thought to contain radioactive biomedical waste.
Numerous television crews descended on Barrington Dog Park Nov. 30 when the Los Angeles Times published an article describing the testing. The Times article read:
The dumping was largely forgotten until earlier this year when reporter Michael Collins, writing for the alternative weekly Los Angeles City Beat and EnviroReporter.com, raised new concerns about the dump area. Collins said in the story that he used a nuclear radiation monitor and found “shards of radioactive glass that registered over four times normal.”
The VA introduced an environmental firm to about two dozen residents, government officials, and dog park people, at a Nov. 27 community meeting at the Barrington Park Recreation Center. The media presence included KNBC Channel 4’s Beverly White, EnviroReporter.com’s Denise Anne Duffield, and international nuclear expert and columnist, Dr. Bennett Ramberg, who has commented extensively on the Brentwood dump.
“We want to do good science,” said Millennium Consulting Associates’ president, Michael Noel, CIH. “We don’t want to be here in the future saying we didn’t do it right.”
The two-phased assessment of the soil and water of the dog park, adjacent arroyos, a swath of the VA’s golf course, and land at Brentwood School began Nov. 28. That’s when Noel’s team traveled to Westwood Park to take “control” samples for radiation reference readings.
“Millennium Consulting Associates, a firm with expertise in environmental and industrial hygiene, has been retained by the Veterans Administration to perform an environmental assessment,” according to a press release issued by Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl. “Millennium’s President, Michael Noel, CIH, will explain the scope of the dog park assessment process, the sampling strategy, the schedule for the testing, and answer questions from the public.”
EnviroReporter.com obtained a schedule of the nuke dump testing, the first part of which ended December 8. The dog park, popular with celebrities like Tori Spelling and the Barbi Twins, was closed for three days during the initial testing phase, as KTLA Channel 5 News reported. As initial dog park testing ended, Noel’s team encountered hostility at the off-leash dog park when attempting to traverse the park out of the VA site. Dog-walkers were so obstinate, according to witnesses who spoke with EnviroReporter.com, that the police had to be called in. L.A.’s Department of Rec and Parks issued the dog-walkers a written rebuke and it’s possible the dog park will have to be closed should interference with the testing team reoccur.
Despite varying accounts of the incident, it seems to have been overblown says Sue Black, founder of the Friends of Barrington Dog Park. Black has been a demonstrably active advocate that the testing of the VA property be done for the benefit of all. “[The incident] was instigated by one individual,” says Black. “There are scores of dog park visitors who wholeheartedly support this project, and many were unhappy to hear about that incident. It was unfortunate, but it didn’t affect the project and it absolutely does not represent the vast majority of dog park visitors.”
Councilman Rosendahl led efforts to have the park tested after our reports began May 18, 2006. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) requested VA answers about Brentwood School nuclear waste and was supposed to get them by August but still hasn’t. EnviroReporter.com‘s questions to PricewaterhouseCoopers about the Brentwood School dump were never answered and only after the Los Angeles Times article correction did we learn that the Department of Veterans Affairs-hired company that made the assessment was actually MicroTech LLC.
Word of testing the Brentwood nuke dump began on June 12, 2006, when the director of the Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Healthcare Center (VA), Charles M. Dorman, appeared on KABC Channel 7 Eyewitness News in response to EnviroReporter.com and Los Angeles CityBeat/ValleyBeat’s ongoing investigation of the nuke dump on VA property in Brentwood. After denying that the dump was close to public recreation areas, and producing yet another redrawn map of the old dump site, Dorman promised to “identify what the honest-to-God truth is on this issue” and share the results with the public. Read a transcript of the interview in KABC Eyewitness News.
Dorman did not bother to tell us of this important decision even though it was in reaction to our five-year investigation into this nuclear and chemical dump on the northern reaches of Brentwood’s sprawling Veterans Administration campus that has sparked calls for further scrutiny by officials from the Los Angeles City Council to the U.S. Congress. Read more in “Digging Up the Dirt,” published in Los Angeles CityBeat/ValleyBeat on June 29,2006.At a Veterans Town Hall meeting, August 12, 2006, Dorman told Collins that the VA would spend $45,000 to test the dump and then share results.
There have been a lot of changes since we first broke the story on Brentwood’s buried treasure: a nuclear and chemical waste dump partially under Barrington Recreation Park and off-leash dog area. One of those changes wasn’t common sense. The Fifth Annual Bow wow ween took place at the park with the cat walk, for dogs of course, right over a known part of the nuke dump! If that wasn’t enough, there were celebrities like the Barbi Twins. If this seems incredible, see for yourself!
On May 18, 2006 Michael Collins published “Real Hot Property“, an in-depth investigation of a nuclear dump that lies under a popular dog park and prestigious school in Brentwood, California. A week later he published “Where the Bodies are Buried“, which revealed the human and animal radiation experiments that helped create the dump. The dumping was conducted between 1952 -1968 by the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration (VA) and nearby UCLA. The dump is located on property owned by the VA, property which is currently up for grabs as part of the CARES initiative.
Since the story broke, stunned and concerned community members have begun pressing for answers. Veterans rights advocates have expressed outrage over what they view as yet another VA sell-out at their expense.
The VA has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.