REAL HOT PROPERTY
The meeting, which lasted over ten hours and was attended by around a thousand people throughout the day, was held by a panel that was appointed by VA Secretary Jim Nicholson. Only one audience member asked what was happening with toxic materials on the VA property and the status of its remediation. The panel seemed unaware of the dump and offered no suggestions. They did, however, issue nonbinding recommendations to the Nicholson immediately after the hearing, although two more public meetings are scheduled. Their six guiding principles included reaffirmation of the Cranston Act.
During a break in the proceedings, this reporter approached Team PwC for comment on the nuke dump referred to in its report. Paul Chrencik, the PricewaterhouseCoopers managing partner on the CARES project, quickly intervened and forbid any media inquiries. “They can’t talk to you,” he said. “You have to go through the VA.”
In mid October, the West LA VA’s public affairs office said that any questions for Team PwC had to be mailed to the same address in Maryland that the public uses for submitting comments on the CARES initiative. On November 17, a set of questions were posted to Chrencik which addressed the startling information in PricewaterhouseCooper’s draft report which read, in part: “An approximately two-acre area in area “J” along the banks of the arroyo was used as a medical waste disposal area from the 1950s until 1968. This medical waste included radioactive biomedical wastes. These radioactive medical wastes were apparently disposed of in accordance with the U.S. Department of Energy requirements that allow for burial of radioactive medical wastes. Construction of athletic fields for the Brentwood School between 1996 and 1999 uncovered several of the disposal areas. Excavated wastes were collected and removed to an off-site disposal facility.”
Ignoring the fact that the quarter in question is actually area “A”, the submitted questions included asking where Team PwC got their information, who excavated the waste and where the waste went.
The PwC report went on to read, “At this point the radioactive wastes are at approximately 10 half-lives and theoretically do not emit radiation greater than other non-radioactive materials. Testing of the waste did not detect any radiation levels above background. Off-site monitoring well sampling has not detected any radiation above back ground levels.”
The half-life comment about the dump reflected in this passage doesn’t make sense scientifically as radionuclides all have different rates of atomic decay. This knowledge is one of the basic fundamental principles of radiation measurements. I asked Chrencik what exactly “10 half-lives” referred to, and if it implied that there is only one radionuclide in the disposal areas, namely tritium (H-3), the most prevalent radionuclide in the disposal areas according to my research. Finally, I inquired about who concluded that the wastes emit no more radiation than non-radioactive material, who tested the waste and what did they test the waste with and who did the off-site monitoring well sampling and where are those wells located.