Collins and Sihvola make a recommendation that might seem appropriate in Runkle Canyon:
If the complexity of geologic conditions at the contamination sites has been and continues to be oversimplified, and because monitoring wells were not placed at key locations along faults, utility trenches, old creek beds/seeps and other parameters that influence groundwater movement, the extent and dispersement of contaminants may have been, and will continue to be underestimated in the future.
Currently, there are no monitoring wells for contamination from the ESADA along the Burro Flats Fault down into Runkle Canyon. Monitoring wells are nowhere to be found in the draft cleanup Response Plan for Runkle Canyon that the Department of Toxic Substances is looking at with “clean eyes,” as Acting Director Maziar Movassaghi told EnviroReporter.com in August as reported in “Coup de Goo.”
Strontium Storm on the Horizon?
When Los Angeles CityBeat and the Ventura County Reporter broke the Runkle Canyon development contamination story in March 2005, most of the emphasis was on the high strontium-90 soil readings in the developer’s environmental impact reports. This information was either missed or ignored by the city of Simi Valley the year before when it approved the 461-home project’s Environmental Impact Report, even though the readings were as high as hundreds of times normal as we reported:
Foster Wheeler’s 58 soil samples averaged 1.39 pCi/g, or six times the EPA’s preliminary remediation goal and nearly 27 times above the typical EPA background level for Sr-90 in the area. The hottest sampling spot, and the one closest to Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory, measured 12.34 pCi/g, which is over 54 times the EPA’s PRG and 237 times the normal background for the radionuclide. Regardless, the GreenPark subcontractor gave a hearty thumbs-up to the results. “In perspective, the concentrations of strontium-90 … were found to be insignificant,” concluded the Foster Wheeler report.
“That’s definitely within the risk range,” says Walker, “unless something weird is going on with the site that would kick it up but, like I said, those are conservative numbers.”
“[Foster Wheeler] found even higher rad levels in the second set of tests than the first and had to massage them through really flaky means, but the numbers don’t lie,” says longtime Rocketdyne critic Dan Hirsch of the Santa Cruz-based Committee to Bridge the Gap.
Three months after our initial exposé broke, the then-called California Department of Health Service (CDHS) quietly took single samples from five highest reading areas for strontium-90 in Runkle Canyon. That June 7, 2005 test was reported on in the January 19, 2006 Los Angeles ValleyBeat article “Hot Property”:
The CDHS split these samples with Dade Moeller & Associates of Richland, Washington, a laboratory hired by the developer. “We only did those samples that the state was interested in because the state was the driver on this, of course,” said the lab’s point person on the sampling, Tracy Ikenberry. “They were the ones who wanted to do it.”
The results of the 2005 sampling were obtained by ValleyBeat through a Public Records Act request. They show the readings from Dade Moeller and from the CDHS state lab in Richmond. The retested locations were all radically lower in Sr-90 than in the previous tests conducted by GreenPark Runkle. In one spot tested, the state lab’s results were 490 times lower for Sr-90 than when it was tested in a 1999 survey. Oddly, the CDHS results for Sr-90 were from two-to-19 times less than the exact same split samples analyzed by Dade Moeller.
Those tests were eventually thrown out by the government in its evaluation of Runkle Canyon which was the result of a “Voluntary Cleanup Agreement” between KB Home and DTSC from early last year.
Dan Hirsch, who first alerted Los Angeles CityBeat/ValleyBeat and the Ventura County Reporter about the high strontium-90 in Runkle Canyon in late 2004, examined the radiation issue at the site in his December 2006 “Radioactive Contamination at Runkle Ranch from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.”
In a February 2009 Ventura County Reporter piece called “‘Simi, we have a problem’,” Hirsch lambasted Dade Moeller qualifications to retest Runkle Canyon for KB Home as part of the cleanup Response Plan still being decided on by DTSC:
“‘Houston, we have a problem,’ which is what the city was told was not true,” Hirsch added. “The developer had not been candid and the entire project was approved based on false representation.”
Hirsch then zeroed in on Dade Moeller’s radiation plan and on the controversial company itself, whose namesake testified back in the 1990s that money spent on cleaning up Cold War-era nuclear facilities was being wasted since there would be a cure for cancer.
Hirsch also questioned the lab’s integrity and pointed out that it is a major Department of Energy (DOE) contractor. The area of Rocketdyne where most of the nuclear mishaps occurred was operated by the DOE, which is responsible for cleaning up the mess. It also borders Runkle Canyon, which leads Hirsch to believe that Dade Moeller shouldn’t be overseeing radiation sampling there.
The Rangers are glad that Dade Moeller’s credentials may get another looking over since the August sacking of Norm Riley, former DTSC Project Manager for Runkle Canyon. Riley, who the Rangers had increasingly asserted wasn’t addressing public concerns and comments about Runkle Canyon, made his feelings abundantly clear about Dade Moeller in his angry reply to an intercepted e-mail from this reporter to Rocketdyne activist Christina Walsh, who had secretly copied him without my permission. In it, as reported last month in “Riley’s Revenge,” Riley called Dade Moeller “one of the most highly respected firms in the business.”
Riley’s removal doesn’t distress the Rev. Southwick. “We now have the chance to undo all the bad science, or lack of science, we saw under Riley,” Southwick says. “The Response Plan simply has too few testing spots for strontium-90, working out to be just one for every thirteen acres, which is ridiculous on the face of it.”
The emphasis on Runkle Canyon’s strontium-90 impacted soil continues to be a major concern to the public today as reported in our “EnviroReporter.com’s Runkle Canyon Comments Analysis.”
In fact, it was this concern that inspired four Simi Valley citizens in 2006 to demand that no development of the property be started until there was a full accounting for the high radiation we first reported on. In good humor, they called themselves the “Radiation Rangers.”
“The city council attacked us as NIMBYs and troublemakers but most folks really appreciated what we started doing and never stopped doing which is making the developer and Boeing accountable to the facts,” says “Toxic Terry” Matheney, a member of the group. “We organized and acted at the height of the real estate boom and news that this supposedly wonderful new development was not fully investigated for high radiation. We stopped it dead in its tracks.”