REAL HOT PROPERTY
An ongoing investigation, begun in late 2001, has unearthed a decades-long trail of government cover-ups and outright deceptions to convince the public that the site is harmless. For instance, a quarter century ago, the government claimed that there were no exchanges of radioactive materials between the university and the West LA VA; that UCLA radioactive waste was never discarded at the Brentwood dump; and that the second most redominant radionuclide at the site, carbon-14, wasn’t even dumped there. This investigation has found that those claims, and many others regarding the waste disposal site, were false.
In addition, a new Bush Administration initiative to develop the VA has inadvertently divulged that the Brentwood nuclear dump is even larger than previously estimated. These disclosures have resulted in a flurry of government denials, distortions and mischaracterizations of the radionuclides known to be present at the nuclear waste site.
Nuke dump or not, this land is part of the most prized underdeveloped acreage left in Los Angeles — the 387-acre VA grounds straddling Wilshire Boulevard just west of the San Diego freeway. It is being studied for development under a new plan called Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services or CARES; an acronym that emerged after a 1999 report estimated that the U.S. government was spending $1 million a day on inefficient VA property. CARES is part of a larger strategy to restructure the VA to ensure its financial solvency through 2022. The West LA VA site is being eyed as one of those properties, the development of which could possibly dig up the dump.
The prospect that this treasured land could be built out alarms many of its neighbors including the 27,000 people who make up the Bel-Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council. “The land was donated in 1888 as an Old Soldier’s Home and must remain for the direct benefits of veterans,” reads a petition sent by group members to VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in December. “It must not be sold or commercially developed. As the CARES process moves forward, any land use proposals must preserve the remaining 387 acres for direct benefits of veterans and must be compatible with the surrounding communities.”
Last September, a member of the local CARES advisory panel leaked a detailed preliminary report on the site conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers that described the Brentwood nuke dump in detail. While many of its scientific statements made little sense in radiological terms, the report contained this bombshell:
“The biomedical, radioactive medical waste and (asbestos containing material) containing construction debris waste sites are all now buried under 15′ to 30′ of fill material areas leased to the Brentwood School for use as athletic fields.”
It was later followed by this astonishing statement: “The fact that this area has already been developed for use as athletic fields indicates that:
1. Either the public was not informed as to the contaminates under the athletic fields,
2. These environmental hazards did not trigger a significant negative public reaction from nearby residents (including parents of students using the fields).”