Runkle Canyon EIR Analysis
Residents contend that the Runkle Canyon Environmental Impact Report (EIR) appears to be flawed for a number of reasons including those reported on by Los Angeles CityBeat/ValleyBeat and EnviroReporter.com, and because of new developments analyzed here. Not only were high strontium-90 findings in Runkle Canyon omitted or mischaracterized in the EIR, the actual 2003 Miller Brooks environmental report used by the city to determine the property’s safety was dismissed by the California Department of Health Services in a Nov. 8, 2006 letter to the city.
“The Miller Brooks survey is not considered useful due to its high minimum detectable activity, which ranged from 2.0 to 2.8 pCi/g [a measure of radiation],” according to the DHS letter to the city. Yet this is the study the city of Simi Valley relied on. ”The Miller Brooks study of 2003 was truly the report that we used … to do the EIR,” said city planner Peter Lyons in our initial expose in early 2005.
This is new information that Al Boughey, the city’s director of environmental services, apparently didn’t know when he wrote August 23: “[S]ince the approval of the EIR, there has not (his emphasis) been any new information made available to the City staff to indicate that risks from strontium-90 or perchlorate on the site have been inadequately studied or disclosed.”
The new DHS conclusion that what we had already exposed is true, and that the city relied on faulty data, seems to suggest that the strontium-90 problem in Runkle Canyon has “been inadequately studied or disclosed.” Other new information includes what we have already exposed and documented in our two-yearlong investigation.
During the Nov. 21 KCET-Channel 28 Life & Times program about Runkle Canyon, “Building on Toxic Soil?,” city council member Barbra Williamson expressed frustration that concerned residents had approached the city council about radiation problems in Runkle Canyon long after the Environmental Impact Report was approved in the Spring of 2004. “I was probably one of the most upset council persons only because the residents were there kicking and screaming and saying there’s a problem here,” Williamson said. “My only problem was where were you three and four years ago when we were doing the environmental document?”
The answer to that question is simple: the developer’s EIR did not contain this crucial information. The residents first became aware of the extraordinarily-high strontium-90 readings in Runkle Canyon, and the flawed EIR, with our March 10, 2005 Los Angeles CityBeat/ValleyBeat cover story “Neighborhood Threat.”
In that comprehensive piece, we reported that, “Development critics now claim that the controversial developers of the already-approved project, and the city of Simi Valley, may have deliberately or inadvertently neglected to adequately address a potential radioactive dust-storm.”
We analyzed how the project’s developers seemed to shop their testing of the soil on the property until they got results that suited their purposes. Residents say that lack of forthrightness about the canyon’s radiation readings should in of itself caused the city to reconsider their continuing acceptance of the EIR as valid, according to the website Stop Runkledyne.
That site says, “In our analysis, the City of Simi Valley can null and void its previous EIR approval based on the language of the April 4, 2004 Planning Commission recommendation to certify the Runkle Canyon Environmental Impact Report. This document is in the Simi Valley Library.
“Under the Development Agreement section called ‘Default of the Developer,’ it states ‘If a material warranty,representation or statement was made or furnished by the Developer to the City with respect to this Agreement which was known to be false in any material respect when it was made… (then the City can break the agreement and)…Developer holds the City harmless.’
“The City of Simi Valley must break this Development Agreement and save itself from the avalanche of lawsuits that will land on the City threatening our community’s fiscal well being.”
That’s pretty strong language. KB Home reps speak a softer line. “As to your question regarding environmental concerns at the site, according to stringent EPA safety standards, we are well below what is safe for residential development, which are the highest level of environmental standards for any type of development,” wrote project representative Marlo Naber-Mole in a late 2005 e-mail to a resident.
But just how stringent considering that KB Home insists that the EIR is adequate? The language in Boughey’s Aug. 23 report suggests that more analysis is needed especially since the US EPA reported to the city that it found that all but 9 of 126 soil samples at Runkle Canyon exceeded the EPA’s “preliminary remediation goal” (PRG) for strontium-90. “The PRG is set to indicate whether additional study is required to determine if the site is contaminated or a health hazard exist (sic),” wrote Boughey.
EPA PRG’s aim for the stringent goal of no more than one cancer million. Boughey suggests that this is the goal of the EIR when he corrects a “typo” in the EIR’s original calculation of .77 cancers in a million caused by strontium-90 at Runkle Canyon down to .26 cancers in a million. Those numbers were based on the 2003 Miller Brooks report that the DHS said “is not considered useful.”
Therefore the EIR is in error. Should the city demand that KB Homes complete a new EIR, with new comprehensive testing of strontium-90, as is its option, perhaps the developer’s lab could actually do the “additional study” that Boughey cites and test for radionuclides associated with massive radiation contamination, including partial meltdowns, such as several man-made isotopes of uranium and plutonium.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, I would think that when you’re a developer and you’re going to buy a piece of property, you do your due diligence before you buy it,” said Williamson on Life & Times. It will be interesting to see what the City of Simi Valley and KB Homes consider “due diligence” in light of the new information that it now has.