As reported here and in Los Angeles CityBeat February 22, 2007, Brentwood School conducted an environmental assessment of its property in December 2006. Those $150,000 tests involved one surface soil sample randomly chosen per each acre of the twenty acres Brentwood School leases from the VA, and twelve 30-foot-deep borings into the ground to look for radiation. As reported in “Hide and Seek,” the tests were criticized as “insufficient” and a “waste” due to the limited nature of them.
The mystery of the Brentwood nuclear and chemical dump moved that much closer to solving with the release of the 5,500+ pages of VA documents by Congressman Henry Waxman (D – Los Angeles) August 8, 2007. It is interesting the amount of effort that outgoing Secretary Jim Nicholson put in trying to convince Waxman that no radioactive materials were buried under what is now Brentwood School athletic fields, far more effort than providing information about other controversial aspects of this most valuable 387-acre property such as enhanced use leases for film companies.
As reported in “Nuke ‘Em High” for Los Angeles CityBeat August 16, 2007, VA contractor MicroTech billed the department $2,508 March 9, 2006 “to update the environmental baseline report” with new information that would refute its own report that radioactive waste is buried beneath Brentwood School’s athletic fields. That report will most likely be released around the September 6 CARES meeting.
With all the emphasis Secretary Nicholson put on discounting the dump being under the school in his letter to Congressman Waxman, and with all the effort that the VA and MicroTech put into ‘updating’ the explosive revelations contained in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, imagine our surprise when this paltry amount is compared to what we found MicroTech was being paid in total by the VA in documents released by Waxman: $413,669.
Indeed, Nicholson might consider that, for all that money, he should at least get the right information before passing it along to Waxman.
“I wish to bring to your specific attention information contained in this material related to your requests #13 through #16 concerning environmental issues, and in particular, any possible radioactive medical wastes beneath or near the location of the Brentwood School’s athletic fields,” Nicholson wrote Waxman on December 12. “VA’s response clearly identifies a number of independent consultants and Federal and state reports that reviewed this issue. The conclusion of all of these reports is that there were no radioactive materials on the site.”
Actually, the VA doesn’t clearly identify any such thing making the Secretary of Veterans Affairs ill-informed or worse.
The additional information provided by the VA to MicroTech consisted of just two letters and a closed site assessment form from the California Department of Health Services (CDHS) January 9, 1995. Hardly “all of these” Federal and state reports. And none of this information, scant as it seems, is included in the thousands of pages of VA documents Waxman released.
Along with a 1993 letter from the U.S. EPA to the VA that is listed on February 10, 2006 VA e-mail to MicroTech, is a February 8, 2002 letter from CDHS to Ben Spivey, the West LA VA’s industrial hygienist. Spivey was at a meeting with this reporter in January 2006 at the VA that was arranged as a consolation for not giving me the answers to questions of PricewaterhouseCoopers about the controversial report. During that meeting, Spivey repeatedly mischaracterized tritium and carbon-14, the most prevalent radionuclides in the dump, as “short-lived.” With half lives of 12.3 years and 5,730 years, respectively, these isotopes are hardly short-lived.
What is in those documents remains to be seen. But what the updated MicroTech environmental report will say is hardly a mystery. “The contractor subsequently reviewed the reports and removed the reference from the final report to VA that will be released when I have made my final decision regarding which options are to be studied in CARES Phase 2,” wrote Nicholson.
Now that the CARES options chosen are public, the only thing left for the VA to is to account for are those three Brentwood School reports that revealed the buried radioactive waste. Problem with that is that the reports, by companies that generated mounds of data, include the 76-page “Brentwood School Projects Soil Investigation Report” by URS Greiner Woodward Clyde, October 18, 1999, the 76-page “Environmental Assessment Report by Locus,” October 23, 2000, and the 172-page “Soil Investigation Report by Locus,” November 21, 2000.
Preliminary inspection of these comprehensive reports indicate that Brentwood School’s contamination problems may not end with buried radioactive waste and ash — diesel-impacted soil and high concentrations of toxic heavy metals may be contaminating the leased VA property.
EnviroReporter.com‘s investigation of these documents, and of other information being supplied by current and former VA employess, is ongoing. One thing clear so far is that we have discovered more about the forgotten nuclear dump in Brentwood than previously possible thanks to Congressman Waxman and his Los Angeles and Washington D.C. staff.
No thanks is owed, however, to the VA which has not only failed to complete Phase 1 of its promised investigation of the dump, as we have reported in Los Angeles CityBeat (see “Hide and Seek,” February 22, 2007), it has not commenced with Phase 2.
Perhaps most incredibly and incredulously, a $78,500 VA-commissioned “comprehensive radiation walk-over survey” conducted by Pleasant Hill-based Millennium Consulting Associates did not only fail to cover all of the areas it promised it would, it concentrated on doing superficial testing on areas buried under 5,000 truckloads of dirt!
Surely these VA contractors had access to the documents we are sifting through here and knew that they were performing a deliberately useless task that, according to one Los Angeles City Council source, cost three times as much as originally reported! Nearly a quarter of a million dollars have been spent on what is, essentially, a weed-whacking job.
And while EnviroReporter.com is digging through all these documents, Congressman Waxman might ask why the VA hasn’t excavated the large mound in the middle of the dump associated with Brentwood School waste. That is the same mound Spivey told me about over a year and a half ago, a dirt pile of debris that emits higher than normal radiation, and next to where this reporter found radioactive lab glass and a hot syringe.
That excavation, and the careful digging up of the mystery mounds south of the Brentwood School stack, would be a realistic and reasonable start to unearthing the West LA VA’s dirty secrets.