Bill Bowling in front of ACME.
Bill Bowling in front of ACME.

Last week, began its “Railroading Runkle Canyon?” series where we review public comments about the Runkle Canyon Response Plan. The Department of Toxic Substances Control has sought public input into what will be the DTSC’s instructions to KB Home to further investigate and remediate contamination in Runkle Canyon where the developer hopes to build 461 residences on land that borders the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, ‘SSFL,’ or more infamously, Rocketdyne.

Events last week, including the replacement of Norm Riley as DTSC project manager for Rocketdyne and Runkle Canyon, has necessitated extending the series into this week. We covered those pivotal events in “Coup de Goo.” Further insight into the not-so-smooth state of affairs regarding the Rocketdyne cleanup was explored in our subsequent “Double Vision” post.

From last week:

This week we will look at the Runkle Canyon comments of Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education’s Bill Bowling, The Aerospace.Org‘s D’Lanie Blaze and, of course,‘s extensive analysis. Then we’ll sum it all up for you.

Why are we doing this? Because we broke the story of radiological and chemical pollution problems in Runkle Canyon with our cover 2005 stories “Neighborhood Threat” in Los Angeles CityBeat and “Which Way the Wind Blows” in the Ventura County Reporter.

Since that time, all manner of community and government reaction has taken place as our Runkle Canyon investigation bears out. This has included reporting on the formation of a citizens group who call themselves the Radiation Rangers.

The Rangers operate and have helped stall the massive KB Home development perhaps until such time that the land is adequately characterized and cleaned up to the extent that it won’t pose any possible threat to potential future residents or neighbors who access the open space there. And since that time, the Rangers say they have seen government obfuscation, developer cover-ups and incompetence, slights-of-hand and questionable commitment to clean up.

While personally finding Riley a likeable enough gentleman, the Rangers were baffled by his decisions. They eventually came to the conclusion that not only did the DTSC project manager for Runkle Canyon not take their comments seriously, that he was inexplicably not looking at some serious science indicating that the canyon is polluted by strontium-90, chemicals and heavy metals.

Many Rocketdyne activists supported DTSC’s Norm Riley, even demanding his reinstatement as head of the Runkle Canyon and SSFL cleanups. An August 26 emergency meeting at the Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education was attended by Christina Walsh, Bill Bowling, Sue Boecker, Mary Weisbrock, Margery Brown, Bonnie Klea and, apparently, Dan Hirsch.

The meeting’s participants were apparently not aware of our “Double Vision” post that laid out exactly what Riley had said about SB-990 and the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. The news was greeted by an uncharacteristic silence among the meeting’s participants.

Regardless, Rocketdyne activists are concerned about what happens on The Hill and in its surrounding environs such as Runkle Canyon.

Such was the case with ACME’s founder and director, Bill Bowling, who submitted three pages of “Comments to the Runkle Canyon Response Plan” to DTSC on February 13, 2009. Bowling began:

I first would like to point out that the December 2007 Offsite Data Report of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) prepared by MWH needs to be corrected and reprinted and the copies at all the libraries be replace as it states on page 18 that the Runkle Canyon Property does not share a border with the SSFL. This is FALSE and the public who read about the issues of the SSFL need to be properly informed otherwise it may mean nothing to them if they feel it is not in close proximity to the SSFL.

We addressed this issue in the July 22, 2009 LA Weekly article “Wrinkles in Runkle Canyon – 50 Years After a Santa Susana Nuclear Accident Holds Up Land Development,” and in the post “Meltdown Dustup.” Boeing subsequently replied that they had indeed erred and would correct the report. We added their reply to the Meltdown Dustup post.

Bowling continued in his Response Plan comments:

It is not just the AREA IV portion of the SSFL that has impacted Runkle. We must toss aside the rejected Conceptual Groundwater Model and look to the Runkle Canyon Windmill Well and it’s (sic) High Concentrations of Trichloroethylene (TCE) as noted in prior reports. This windmill is pumping every time the wind blows, sometimes non-stop, pulling in contaminated groundwater. This windmill needs to be dismantled to allow the TCE concentrations to stay within the SSFL boundaries.

We had reported on the Runkle Canyon TCE detects in the January 17, 2008 Ventura County Reporter article “Down the Test Tubes.” The Reporter and obtained a December 2007 study of offsite pollution around SSFL prepared by an Arcadia-based environmental engineering firm MWH for Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy which shows that TCE has been detected in approximately 10 percent of several dozen groundwater samples collected on Runkle Canyon property.

Bowling brought this up at a November 17, 2008 special meeting of the Simi Valley City Council that we wrote about in “Simi Valley supports Supplemental EIR for Runkle Canyon.” He noted that Boeing and NASA had turned off their groundwater remediation systems in 2000.

Those systems removed approximately 10 gallons of TCE a year through the use of “air-stripping” towers where the contaminated water cascades over charcoal-based filters and allowed to evaporate into the air.

The ambient amount of TCE in Los Angeles air is measureable. “Some cities, notably Los Angeles, have high ambient levels of TCE in the air,” reported a March 20, 2006 Los Angeles Times article.

Between 530,000 and 800,000 gallons of TCE remains in Rocketdyne’s groundwater from decades of rocket testing. It could take up to 80,000 years to remove it (in that rather dubious evaporative fashion) if the system was turned on.

At the city council meeting Bowling described a windmill in highlands of Runkle Canyon that had the TCE detects. It is situated close to Runkle’s border with the lab in the Simi Hills. Bowling added “This windmill well could potentially draw the contamination offsite.”

It was notable that councilmember Glen Becerra, usually skeptical of past environmental claims about Runkle Canyon, responded:

“Mr Mayor, maybe we could ask staff, I don’t know where the windmill is, I’m sure they could let us know; why couldn’t we ask staff to contact KB and ask them to turn it off. You could disconnect the pump from the windmill itself so it’s not pumping any water unless they are using it up there and I highly doubt they are using it up there so.”

“We could do it,” responded Simi Valley Mayor Miller. “We’ll have staff check it out.”

This was the last time Bowling or heard about anything having to do with the windmill well on Runkle Canyon property where trichloroethylene has been detected.

And that was the last time the city seemed publicly concerned about contamination in the canyon that KB Home purchased for $38 million in 2006 hoping to build 461 at the top of the real estate boom now gone bust.

Bowling noted this in observations:

During the January Public meeting that you held in the Simi Valley City Council Chambers, why were there no City Officials nor the owner/developer or even the firm who did the testing (Dade-Moeller) in attendance? It was not even posted on the Simi Valley City Website until just a few days prior. This looks to be a low profile issue for the City of Simi Valley or at least they are treating it like one. All who attended saw the data and the efforts of Dade-Moeller to downplay the seriousness of their findings. RADIOLOGICAL FINDINGS!!!

Bowling is the president of the Malibu Association of Realtors and saved some of his harshest criticisms for KB Home at the end of his comments:

Look to Acknowledging KB Homes’ past (i.e. building a housing development on a former WWII bombing range in Texas without removing the bombs, wherein dozens of them – unexploded – were found in yards after families moved into the houses), let us ask ourselves what KB Homes may gain by the determination that Runkle Canyon – a piece of land bordering a former nuclear and rocket engine testing facility with the distinction of being home to the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history THE SRE – is safe to build homes on. KB Homes carries no insurance. They are self-insured and get around everything by forming sub-Corporations for each development and then closing down the Corporation once the project is completed. They have pushed their way through developing brownfields all over the United States.

Here we have a link to a government website that states KB Homes is in violation of the Clean Water Act and is in A Civil Action with the United States Government.

Look at these practices and look at the flawed data. This site needs a careful eye placed upon it and it needs to be tested right and right now.

Next “Railroading Runkle Canyon?” blog post: The Aerospace Runkle Canyon Comments

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