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“As I walked up to the tanks I felt like I was crushing snails in the grass and as I looked closer it was literally hundreds of animal bones from the unlucky critters who drank the water from the old trough,” says “Wild Bill” Bowling, a Radiation Ranger and a leading Rocketdyne cleanup activist. Bowling founded the Aerospace Contamination Museum of Education and has been fighting for cleanup of SSFL for nearly a decade.

“It was macabre walking on all these bones crunching under my boots,” says Bowling. “But it wasn’t so creepy that I didn’t see what whoever transported these giant tanks also drained them at the well. That someone, most likely from the lab since there is no other plausible explanation, would dump these massive tanks here defies belief but there they are corroding away on land that is supposed to be used for hikers and bikers as open space.”

EnviroReporter.com has verified Bowling’s photographs of Runkle Canyon’s windmill well to be authentic. Galleries of the well in 2009 and then again in 2011 show that KB Home has done nothing to remove these dangerous structures from its property which is in violation of Simi Valley dumping ordnances.

“Something seemed wrong the first time I saw them. As I looked at the tanks closer I noticed a hose system attached in a very crude way and realized that these were designed to drain into the windmill well, injection style,” Bowling tells EnviroReporter.com. “They even went so far as to put 2 x 4’s under the tank so that a couple of workers could tilt the tank to help with the gravitational flow into in the earth via this old windmill that looks out of the Old West.”

The tanks and corroded barrels look vintage Rocketdyne, however. With the lab as a next door neighbor, the most likely suspect for the dumping of the Cold War-era debris and contaminants on the well that watered countless cattle is SSFL.

Indeed, EnviroReporter.com and Bowling’s site RocketdyneArchives.com both have photos of tanks at Rocketdyne that are nearly identical with the ones sitting haphazard on rotting planks at Runkle Canyon’s windmill well. This bottom center photo looks like the big tank and this top middle photo looks like the smaller of the oversized tanks. Image 9 and Image 17 look like they could be either tank and the fourth from bottom photo called “Removal of Radioactive Waste UST (Underground Storage Tank) of Building 4020” looks like the smaller Runkle windmill tank.

Barrels found at the windmill well are identical to the ones in the photo in the third row, far right. Thousands of barrels of radioactive and chemically-contaminated goo were chucked into Area IV’s sodium fuel pit where in a small sea of radioactive goo, workers would draw straws to see who would be able to shoot a rifle at the barrels which would explode when shot releasing their extremely toxic radioactive contents into the air.

Before Bowling learned the dirty secrets of Runkle Canyon’s windmill well firsthand, he knew of the place as “Offsite Well #21” or OS-21 from reports on offsite contamination generated by Boeing subcontractors. Arcadia, California-based MWH environmental engineers tested OS-21 and found it to be positive for TCE in a December 2007 report prepared for Boeing (10.57 MB; Figure 3.1, Page 184/199).

It was an odd place to find the carcinogenic rocket engine and hardware solvent since most of the intense use of the sickly-sweet smelling goo took place further east and north at SSFL at rocket test stands in Areas I, II and III. A map of Area IV TCE (4th row down, middle) does reveal, however, contamination in that part of the lab which housed experimental nuclear reactors, a Radioactive Material Handling Facility and a Hot Lab where spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors around the country were cut apart.

Before becoming a Radiation Ranger, Bowling had warned the Simi Valley City Council about the well and, for once, city officials seemed to take residents seriously about pollution from Rocketdyne oozing off the site onto and under Runkle Canyon.

“This windmill well could potentially draw the contamination offsite,” Bowling told the council at a special Runkle Canyon public meeting in Simi Valley City Council chambers November 17, 2008.

Bowling described how Boeing and land lessor NASA had turned off their groundwater remediation systems to clean the groundwater of TCE back in 2000. That “air-stripping” carbonated system cleaned about 10 gallons of the volatile organic compound from groundwater each year.

Over 30,000 rocket engine tests took place at SSFL during the go-go years of the Cold War leaving at least 530,000 gallons of the goo in the groundwater. The disconnected system would have taken 53,000 years to complete its job.

For once, the city council seemed to listen and take the stark reality of having one of the most polluted places in Southern California bordering the city.

“Mr. Mayor, maybe we could ask staff, I don’t know, where the windmill is,” said Councilmember Glen Becerra after Bowling’s comment. “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,” now-former Mayor Paul Miller responded. “We’ll have staff check it out.”

Clearly no city staff checked it out or they would have noticed, among other things, that the giant tanks and dozens of decaying barrels in and of themselves violate city dumping laws and would certainly pose a hazard to the people using the open space for recreational activities.

That wasn’t the case when USEPA was granted access to an offsite well on the Brandeis-Bardin property. There, at OS-10, the agency detected beta radiation in the well water at nearly three times its MCL for drinking water. Total adjusted gross alpha radiation activity was 8.61 times its MCL which is even more troubling: alpha radiation is up to 60 to 1,000 times more dangerous than beta or gamma radiation because of the harm it causes upon ingestion or inhalation.

SEE GALLERY of May 17, 2012 SSFL Open House with EPA posters showing high strontium-90 adjacent Runkle Canyon and high alpha radiation in Brandeis-Bardin wells

These astronomically high radiation readings on Brandeis-Bardin come from a well over two miles from Area IV. Runkle Canyon’s windmill well is just a half mile from the polluted lab. Yet even with the importance of testing that well, KB Home’s lawyers have given USEPA the “runaround” according to Rev. Southwick.

“The USEPA folks at the May 17 SSFL Open House told me KB Home said there was no reason, or evidence, that would make them allow access,” says Rev. Southwick. “They told the government to take a hike but certainly not on Runkle Canyon. It’s clear they have something in and around the well to hide and thanks to Wild Bill, now we know what – a possible nuclear and chemical dump by and in the windmill which sends its poisons downhill into Ahmanson Ranch to inflict unknowing visitors to that park who are unwittingly exposed to Rocketdyne toxins in the stream water.”

Ahmanson Ranch’s streams form the headwaters of Las Virgenes Creek, also protected by the Clean Water Act. This reporter has personally seen and photographed the gooey waters of Ahmanson Ranch careful to avoid skin contact. Other visitors to the park that day in 2005 didn’t show the same caution even allowing children to frolic in the cooling waters on a hot summer day. They didn’t know any better as no signage explains what the gooey waters contain or if they are contaminated by upstream pollution.

Simi Valley planning staff also failed to enforce rules requiring Runkle Canyon’s developer to adhere to Section 303 (d) of the Clean Water Act.

In a July 22, 2003 letter to the city’s John F. Fields acquired by EnviroReporter.com, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region (LARWQCB) states that “The project site lies in the Calleguas watershed that was listed as being impaired.”

“Constituents causing impairment in the Calleguas watershed include pesticides, metals, nitrogen, sedimentation, algae, salts and coliform,” LARWQCB associate geologist Elizabeth Erickson wrote. “Our review of your documentation shows that it does not include information on how this project will change the loading of these pollutants into the watershed. Please provide the following additional information for both the construction and operational phases of the project.”

The city of Simi Valley failed to respond. LARWQCB sent another letter to the city March 16, 2004 this time addressed to Adam Keller. Again, the city did not bother to respond.

Can a municipality simply ignore a state agency’s request for a construction project to follow the Clean Water Act? Apparently so.

“I can tell you I think we probably never received any response,” said L.B. Nye in a voicemail to EnviroReporter.com January 19, 2011. “We don’t often write letters in response to CEQA documents because we don’t have the statute to do so. We do sometimes when it’s important enough. And probably we didn’t receive a response to this letter. They probably, if they responded, incorporated the concerns in their next draft of the EIR.”

Nye correctly predicted that the developer, Runkle Canyon LLC, which was sold by original developer Peter Kiesecker GreenPark Runkle to KB Home in 2006, would include an explanation in the EIR explaining why it hadn’t tested Runkle Creek for these harmful constituents.

“The Runkle Canyon project will not result in significant water quality impacts; including any substantial increase in loading of the pollutant constituents of concern for the Calleguas Creek Watershed identified in this letter,” the EIR contended with no evidence to back it up. “Lastly, because the project will contribute a minimal impact on surface water quality and because of the lack of reliable information on which to base any quantified load estimates, no estimates are provided.”

In other words, because Runkle Canyon LLC didn’t bother to conduct any creek water tests, it wouldn’t provide any of the information that LARWQCB demanded twice.

Perhaps as disingenuous is EIR’s notion that rain water in Runkle Canyon has little opportunity to soak into the soil therefore the runoff would be the same as future runoff in the canyon once it’s filled with impermeable surfaces like asphalt and concrete.

“[T]he proposed development is located in the moderately-sloping hillside regions of the site that under existing conditions promotes storm runoff to travel down the existing hillsides, limiting opportunites for percolation,” the EIR claims with no proof. “Project development will continue to travel down the existing hillsides, limiting opportunities for percolation.”

Even a cursory look at Runkle Canyon photographs clearly shows that the verdant canyon most certainly does soak up water. Combined with enormous catch basins and other water features, KB Home will certainly change water runoff both in quantity and quality despite protestations that Runkle Canyon’s grasslands are essentially the same as concrete and asphalt sidewalks, driveways and roadways.

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  1. Wow, and to think I used to ride bikes as a kid down Peppertree Lane to the Brandeis Institute. How many more citizens have to get sick or die before something is done about this! Thanks so much!

  2. Rev. John Southwick

    Once again the truth is out there—-
    If only if KB home will just look and find it.
    Thanks Michael for staying with us during this fight,even though sometimes it seems it is like banging your head against the wall.
    Bravo Mr. Collins.

  3. Norm ‘Shenanigans’ Riley also disgusts me. His ‘science’ has been repeatedly debunked as nonsense. I hereby question his motive and design.

    Good on you Michael, Rev. John, Terry, Frank, Patty, and Bill for all your investigative efforts.

    This toxic abyss of unimagined depths amazes — deliberately dumped liquid wastes into wells that feed directly into the water table below the mountain. Radioactive contamination has been found miles away in places such as Chatsworth Reservoir. The long term fate of the huge aquifer is in jeopardy.

    ‘Waste Holdings’ were shipped in from offsite. How many millions of Curies of transuranic waste? Contaminated soil poses a threat to the community’s water table.

    Responsibility of the felon-polluter is to either prove that dangerous concentrations of waste never reach the groundwater (and water table and aquifer) or to act quickly to sponge up percolating poisons. Since the former fails the sensible science test, the quickness of clean up, then, is at issue.

    Being ‘quick’ is not the same as how fast the polluter desires to cut and run. Beware the repeat of shenanigans in the form of paid corporate experts trying to bamboozle the public at meetings. Advice: do not buy into their incomplete science, question everything, and investigate independently to verify the tangled web big money tries to weave.

  4. The frightening thing is nothing has been cleaned up. There is paper pushing, but nothing is being accomplished. I am disgusted by how little actual cleanup action is underway here.

    Suggestion: prepare a jam from Runkle Ranch prickly pear cactus fruit or sage or other native edibles found at Runkle (be imaginative — seek recipes online or consult with the Chumash museum in North Ranch / T.O.). Make a few jars of Runkle jam and mail them to DOE Secretary Chu, Governor Brown, Mayor of Simi, and 9th Circuit Appeals Justices with the following label on the jar:

    “This _________(insert type of preserves made) jam is a token of the future hazard of unidentified, uncontained, and unmanaged radioactivity at Runkle Ranch. Courtesy of the Radiation Rangers.”

    90Sr, 90Y, 89Sr, are in Runkle for at least one reason, that being because Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) were created as part of Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power (SNAP), “a joint project of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and NASA”. There were several SNAP mishaps at Rocketdyne.

    “RTGs are sometimes called ‘atomic batteries.’ They can be built with any of the following radioisotopes: Strontium-90, Curium-242, Plutonium-238 and Polonium-210”

    From the following chapter (please read this one and the whole e-book):


    Getting out some hot Runkle jam would spark heightened interest in clean up.

  5. Fukushima Radiation in America Update
    May 28, 2012: Bluefin tuna caught off of San Diego in August 2011 tests positive for cesium 134 and cesium 137 radiation, isotopic identifiers with the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdowns polluting the Pacific. Rense and Collins discuss the implications as the amount of highly-poisonous radioactive water from Fukushima pours at least 1,000 tons of contamination into the ocean daily leading to bioaccumulation now seen in some of the top of the food chain marine creatures.

    Runkle Roulette revelations too.

  6. Thank you Michael Collins for your excellent reporting. Keep it up. We need to know the truth about the contamination from the SSFL site.

  7. Hard to say what’s scarier – the contamination or the abuse of public process. Go go go, M.C.!

  8. Thanks again, Michael, for staying on the Runkle story, and uncovering all of the incompetence, denying, lying, greed, and disregard of potential harm to unknowing humans, by would be home builders, labs, real estate brokers,city officials and Government regulators who appear to have been looking the other way, in honor of the mighty dollar.

    All of this is really not only just a tale of greedy malfeasance and uncaring incompetence, it is really a story of a FELONY CRIME…..happening in very slow motion, before our very eyes.

    Again…we are grateful for the ongoing persistence and efforts of the Rangers, which includes you and Bill, and we are certainly glad that you have been able, so far, to keep any houses from being built and occupied on Runkle Canyon.

  9. Public officials selling out their own meal ticket. Let’s see how long they remain public officials. They could ask Norm Riley how that worked out for him. There is no public trust left to betray, and for good reason.

  10. Man, this is the nightmare that keeps on giving–some vested interest is going to decided that the only way to stop the dirt from being revealed is to bury Collins under a pile of strontium-90-laced dirt.

  11. Wow what a dynamite story. We would never know the whole story without Michael Collins. The coverup gets deeper and the news gets worse every day. I can’t imagine anything worse than having contamination in the drinking water, even if it is for the cows.

  12. You are doing a great job, reporting truths that needs to get out to the uninformed. I’ve tried several times to C&P, or capture to print, in order to pass the information to others who are uninformed. Unfortunately, your website is NOT PRINTER FRIENDLY. Is there a reason for this? As long as your website is given credit, and links are passed on with the printed material, you would get more traffic, and certainly you would be achieving your purpose (which I’m presuming is to spread the WORD).

    Major workarounds in order to print your articles; Perhaps you might want to allow for CUT and PASTE, or WORD friendly, or even PDF?

    Keep up the good work. I’d like to spread it around….

    ciao for now,


  13. Thank you Michael Collins for staying on this issue even when all hope was lost with the DTSC determination of a No Further Action. The truth will be much more stranger than fiction as we find out how they bend the truth to please the money provider. Not one person representing KB Home at the Planning Commission meeting would confirm or deny that they turned down EPA’s request to sample the “Windmill Well”…Onward to June 6th,

    William Preston Bowling
    Founder ACME (Aerospace Contamination Museum of Education)

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