Denise Anne Duffield and I launched EnviroReporter.com in May 2006. In conjunction with Los Angeles CityBeat, we broke a five-year investigation called “Real Hot Property” about a forgotten nuclear dump on Veterans Administration land in Brentwood California.
A story that hot deserved an even hotter website so we loaded up EnviroReporter.com with award-winning investigative journalism, in-depth data, maps, photos, films and television clips. A forum came later to further engage the reader in our environmental investigations.
“The dumping was largely forgotten until earlier this year when reporter Michael Collins, writing for the alternative weekly Los Angeles CityBeat and EnviroReporter.com, raised new concerns about the dump area,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in late 2006. “Collins said in the story that he used a nuclear radiation monitor and found ‘shards of radioactive glass that registered over four times normal.’”
Since September 2007, $1 million has been committed to investigate the dump and a $4 billion Bush Administration plan to develop the VA has been derailed partly due to our continuing exposé. Upcoming revelations concerning a greater scope of issues at the West LA Veterans Administration, including newly discovered contamination at the VA and Brentwood School, will be forthcoming this summer.
Tens years ago, my first major environmental piece hit the stands as the June 1998 cover story for Los Angeles magazine called “Hot Zone” about the massively polluted Santa Susana Field Laboratory, or Rocketdyne. This began our ongoing investigation that has been printed in the LA Weekly, Los Angeles CityBeat and many other publications.
The sprawling lab, site of two nuclear meltdowns and considerable chemical and radiological contamination, is now under an agreement that would have it cleaned to stringent standards, can never be developed and will eventually be donated to the state of California by lab owner Boeing. Serious indications, however, have emerged that may endanger the cleanup and protection of neighboring properties as EnviroReporter.com will soon be exploring.
Reporting on Rocketdyne led to my revelations that neighboring Ahmanson Ranch, site of a proposed $2 billion 3,050-home development, may have been polluted by the lab. This information, reported in the Ventura County Reporter 2002 cover story “Rocketdyne Ranch” and subsequent articles, is credited with thwarting the development which was sold to the state for $150 million.
Today, this vast untamed land, dotted with Valley Oaks and home to endangered red-legged frogs and San Fernando Valley Spineflower, is now permanently-protected public open space enjoyed by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. You can even get married at Ahmanson Ranch at the old ranch house.
Also bordering Rocketdyne is the proposed 461-home and apartment Runkle Canyon housing development. [KB Home’s Runkle Canyon development is now called Arroyo Vista at the Woodlands.] The KB Homes and Lennar venture, which also includes a Disney home design partnership, has been stalled since 2005 when our first revelations of strontium-90 pollution in Runkle Canyon’s soil were published by Los Angeles CityBeat in a cover story called “Neighborhood Threat.”
Armed with our information, a citizens group called the Radiation Rangers formed in 2006 to challenge KB Homes’ contention that the land is safe for development. Last year, the Rangers found heavy metal contamination in the soil and water of Runkle Canyon, prompting the city of Simi Valley to test as well. The city’s tests were even more alarming.
KB Home and Cal-EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control signed a ‘voluntary cleanup agreement’ in April 2008 that has the DTSC looking at documents supplied by the developer to assess the need for additional testing and, perhaps, mitigation procedures. EnviroReporter.com is preparing a set of documents and tests, including our analyses, for the DTSC’s inspection in order to facilitate their work on this crucial issue now that the government has stepped in on issues that we uncovered.
Exposing pollution problems at Aerojet’s former facility in Chino Hills began in 2000 in the LA Weekly and later the OC Weekly with the cover story “Russians, Rockets and the Santa Ana River.” Now the 880-acre lab, polluted with depleted uranium, chemical pollution and unexploded ordnance, is undergoing a multi-million dollar cleanup.
Our extensive, and exclusive, coverage of this controversy, and the other investigations on EnviroReporter.com, digs deeper and reveals more information than traditional media and will continue to do so as these issues develop. That’s the appeal of this site and we will continue to expand upon it in our third year. We use every resource available to get the story, all the story, and get it right.
I am lucky that I have such a potent and pretty partner in my arsenal, Denise Anne Duffield, EnviroReporter.com’s editorial collaborator. She has multiple awards for her work in just the first two years of our professional partnership’s existence. Denise Anne and I are also going to debut a new, multi-media creative endeavor later this year that will be as hot as this website.
EnviroReporter.com looks so compelling because of this talented and creative web wunderkind who happens to also be the love of my life! Our partnership has borne sweet fruit as shown by our journalistic award wins and nominations, a Resolution of the Board of Supervisors of Ventura County, and the gratitude and friendship of our readers and colleagues.
Our work has helped stop over $6 billion worth of questionable development on polluted land at Ahmanson Ranch and the West LA VA. This decade long journey of toxics issues coverage has helped lead to the $23 million cleanup of Aerojet in Chino Hills. We have precipitated a $1 million exploration of the nuclear and chemical dump in Brentwood that has yet to even begin but portends to be a story filled with intrigue and surprises.
That is what EnviroReporter.com is all about — covering and affecting issues in a compelling and comprehensive way that benefits the public good. Our commitment is to continue this tradition of journalistic excellence through intensive exploration of the issues that Americans care about. We put make our extensive and fact-filled investigations online so you can see how we unravel the mysteries that we are reporting on. We also endeavor to make this reporting fun, accessible and of value to citizens who want to invest the time and energy in their communities to assure that they are safe from environmental threats.
It is with the greatest pleasure that we thank you for caring enough about these toxic topics to take a journey through our website. We promise you that EnviroReporter.com’s third year will be the hottest yet!