The Radiation Rangers think they know why KB Home has continued to resist testing this water, which is used by cattle, wild animals including cougars and the pet dogs people have walked in the canyon over the years; it’s polluted.
The citizens group went and did its own expensive testing of Runkle Canyon Creek water in May 2007 after a chemical sheen was seen in the mucky goo. The $3,000 worth of results were shocking.
Runkle Canyon’s surface water readings for poisonous arsenic were 15 times the MCL for drinking water, over 21,000 times the EPA’s “Preliminary Remediation Goal” and 37,500 times the agency’s “Public Health Goal” for potable water.
The mud sample was laced with arsenic as well, coming in at over 548 times the EPA’s PRG for the contaminant in soil. That amount of the toxin is also 213 percent of DTSC’s arsenic “field action level,” where further investigation is warranted.
The toxic metals nickel and vanadium were also detected in the water at worrisome levels by the Pat-Chem lab employed by the Rangers, in the case of the later, tripping a government “notification level” designed to keep pollutants out of the drinking water supply.
Nickel was over 12 times the EPA’s PHG in water and vanadium came in at 1.8 times the notification level which is a threshold at which the most local government entity should be informed. That entity would seemed to have been the city of Simi Valley since it annexed Runkle Canyon in September 2004 and incorporated it into the municipality in 2006.
The city took no action even when confronted with the Radiation Rangers and angry citizens in public meetings including city council conferences. But Simi Valley took action two months later when it hired the same Pat-Chem team to retest Runkle Canyon Creek for heavy metals. Mayor Miller and a host of city and county officials, along with a KB Home representative, asked Rev. Southwick to guide the group to the same spots the Rangers had tested.
The city’s tests came back with an even higher amount of arsenic in the water than the Rangers did. The reading for arsenic, which causes bladder and lung cancers as well as diabetes, developmental problems, gastrointestinal illness and heart disease, was 25 percent higher. That translates to 26,478 times tap water’s PRG and 47,000 times California’s PHG for the toxin in drinking water.
Another regulated heavy metal found by the Rangers in Runkle Canyon water, barium, was detected at levels 233 percent higher than the citizens’ sampling. Nickel came in 33 percent higher and vanadium 55 percent more elevated than the earlier tests.
Runkle Canyon Creek water sloshes periodically into the Arroyo Simi where it percolates into the aquifer and is blended with imported water to drink. The water is a source for Simi Valley drinking supplies.
DTSC differs on what to most folks would seem an obvious fact. Former Runkle Canyon and Rocketdyne cleanup projects head for the department, Norman E. Riley, told the Simi Valley City Council in a special session that DTSC considers “the tap” as the water source, meaning water after it has already been blended and processed for safe consumption. That is not the definition of a water source according to numerous state and federal agencies.
Riley was sacked not long after that remark yet his successor, Rick Brausch, and DTSC geologist John Naginis, seemed unclear on even the nature of water sources in Southern California according to remarks he made to the Radiation Rangers and other concerned citizens at a meeting to discuss DTSC’s “No Further Action” (NFA) needed for Runkle Canyon cleanup. The meeting was held at DTSC’s Chatsworth offices January 31, 2011 to explain the department’s decision.
“We do not consider surface water in Runkle Canyon to be drinking water,” Naginis said to the astonished gasps of the assembly of citizens. “Because it’s not drinking water, the higher standards do not apply.”
“I don’t know at this point whether or not that stream feeds into a surface water body that is drawn from by a water company,” Brausch elaborated. “Typically in this area, groundwater is the primary source of drinking water and those are usually extracted from great depths. Typically surface water sources here in Southern California are not usually used.”
As seen in the video to the left, “The Good Reverend” John Southwick expressed dismay at DTSC’s decision January 2011 to issue a No Further Action decision on Runkle Canyon after claiming in the press falsely that KB Home laboratory Dade Moeller was more precise than earlier developer labs that found astronomically high amounts of strontium-90 in the canyon next to Rocketdyne. Actually, Dade Moeller’s technique, from the 1970s, resulted in “suspect” low radiation readings.
Typically, government officials in charge of a cleanup project know what they’re talking about. In this case, Brausch and Naginis had no clear idea that indeed Runkle Canyon Creek fed into the Arroyo Simi and was a blue line stream protected by the Clean Water Act.
Brausch and DTSC brushed aside high strontium-90 readings detected by the developer’s laboratories in 1999 and 2000 where the deadly radionuclide was found on Runkle property at hundreds of times background as reported in 2005 in the Ventura County Reporter cover story “Which Way the Wind Blows.”
Indeed, when the NFA was announced, DTSC officials crowed about use of more modern technology to determine the amount of strontium 90 in Runkle Canyon.
“DTSC does not know for certain why there is a difference between the data collected in 1999 and the investigations performed since 2005,” DTSC public information officer Jeanne Garcia told the Ventura County Star in a December 29, 2010 article. “Doing the strontium testing is a complicated procedure, it requires skill on the part of the chemist, and the procedures have been improving over time.”
“We did not find similar results to ’99,” Brausch told the Simi Valley Acorn as reported December 17, 2010. “In fact, most of the data was much more in line with the subsequent developer-generated data. Our data was also very closely in line with the split-sample data from the developer.”
“It’s always good news when we verify there isn’t environmental contamination and exposure to contaminants,” he said.
Indeed, it is always good news to be able to verify that but Brausch, DTSC and KB Home’s lab for the sampling, Richland, Washington-based Dade Moeller Associates did nothing of the sort.
Dade Moeller used testing techniques from the 1970s, not the latest strontium-90 testing techniques developed in 1990 by Eichrom, testing techniques currently used by USEPA in its $41 million radiological assessment of Area IV as part of an SSFL cleanup that has cost several hundred million to date.
EnviroReporter.com has obtained documentation that shows just how science-challenged Dade Moeller’s tests were. Yet these tests have been eagerly embraced by DTSC and the city of Simi Valley as proof that Runkle Canyon’s chain-link fence has keep Rocketdyne goo off the property. The battle over which science is accurate will help determine the futures of both the Simi and western San Fernando valleys.
Dade Moeller used EPA Method 905.0 developed in the 1970s to retest for radionuclides at Runkle Canyon, not the Eichrom resin method introduced in 1990. The original developer tests beginning in 1999 that yielded the high strontium 90 results used the newest and most reliable method called Eichrom.
Why Dade Moeller switched to the older cumbersome method instead of attempting to duplicate the original reports’ results is not known. What is known is the old method is troublesome and didn’t match the techniques used in 1999 by the developer’s lab, Houston, Texas-based Foster Wheeler.
“The Eichrom procedure is just a newer procedure and solves some of the problems inherent in EPA 905.0,” USEPA senior science advisor Gregg Dempsey told EnviroReporter.com January 11, 2011 by email. “EPA 905.0 is quite tedious and therefore somewhat unpopular. You can’t “cookbook” your way through either procedure, you have to know what you’re doing.”
Dade Moeller apparently had problems with the old method according to Dan Hirsch of the nuclear watchdog group Committee to Bridge the Gap. News of the 1959 meltdown came through the efforts of students in a class Hirsch taught at UCLA in 1979.
“The tests that were made by Foster Wheeler used the most modern technique, the technique that EPA has determined is the most reliable and is using [at SSFL],” Hirsch said at the January 31, 2011 DTSC Runkle Canyon NFA meeting via telephone. “They have chosen not to use the old 30 year procedure because it has a tendency to produce errors when the chemist is not really really expert. So the old tests actually used the modern technique. [Dade Moeller’s] tests used the old technique that EPA has chosen not to use because the potential for being wrong. Their advice about what you needed to do to make sure the chemist knew what he or she was doing, in my understanding, was not followed.”
Not only were USEPA’s advice to DTSC and Dade Moeller not followed, the developer’s lab had a dismal success rate in correctly determining the amount of strontium 90 in Runkle Canyon soils. Out of 36 samples, 15 of these samples had a recovery rate of less than 40 percent which is the lowest percentage one can still have reasonable confidence in for accuracy. Five of the samples had a recovery rate of less than 30%.
“If you look at Method 905.0, there are a total of at least six precipitations using multiple acids and bases prior to the final precipitation for strontium 90, and if you’re looking for strontium 90 itself, then you have additional precipitations afterwards for a total of at least eleven precipitations, possibly more depending on how the sample is purifying along the way,” Terry O’Brien of Eichrom told EnviroReporter.com January 13, 2011. “Whereas with the Eichrom technology, you do one additional precipitation depending on your sample size. Our typical users of our products want a very high degree of sensitivity, recovery and precision and accuracy.”
“When you’re doing a total of eleven precipitations, the likelihood of things to go bad is very high,” O’Brien continued. “You have to do quantitative transfers from eleven different precipitations, you’re saving precipitate. If you screw up, you’re done. You’ve just lost the majority of what you’re looking for. You can go very, very quickly from having a great recovery to a horrible recovery.”
O’Brien said that typical reporting requirements under the Department of Energy say that data should be termed “suspect” if the recovery rate goes below 40 percent.