Atomic Tombstones – Before and After

Erik J. Gutierrez, Stakeholder Relations Representative in the VA’s Office of External Affairs, sent LA Weekly and EnviroReporter.com this statement December 17, 2009:

A Statement from Ms. Donna Beiter R.N., M.S.N., Director of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System:

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLA) is currently conducting a surface and subsurface Environmental study of the “arroyo” area located to the east of the Barrington Park Recreation center to put to rest any concerns that our property is unsafe. We are conducting this study in accordance with, and oversight from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well as internal VA programs.

During the 1950s to the late 1960’s this area of GLA’s West Los Angeles Medical Center campus, was a waste burial site, an acceptable practice at the time. The Arroyo (which is a closed site) and the Park have been subject to decades of testing by private contractors and government agencies with the results always deeming the area to be safe for the public.

Above all, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our Veterans, employees, and the local community.

As to the questions about grave markers, our staff conducted an investigation of the site in which we did find pieces of grave markers buried in the hillside along with construction debris from an old building demolished in the 1970’s. During our investigation, we found that these grave markers were removed, and disposed of (including the breaking up of the stones) according to VA regulation and came from replacements discarded from the VA cemetery during the same time period. Nine of the broken grave markers within clear view, and easily accessible were gathered and taken to the Los Angeles National Cemetery for destruction.

We want to convey to the public all of these “found” markers had replacements at each respective burial site within the cemetery. GLA is working with the cemetery to make sure there are no more broken grave markers partially covered amongst the heavy foliage and construction debris.

For additional information or site visit coordination please contact:
Mr. Ralph Tillman the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System Chief of External Affairs at [redacted].

We address this statement, and other reactions to our LA Weekly article “Brentwood’s Toxic Grave,” and associated material, in our Weekly blog post “VA hurriedly cleans up abandoned gravestones at Brentwood site of historic toxic dump.”