This angered residents like the Reverend John Southwick of the Radiation Rangers. Southwick has fought for a full and believable characterization of the creek and other areas of Runkle Canyon since 2006.
“Since when is lying to the commissioners an acceptable way of doing business?” Rev. Southwick asked the commission. “It just is not right. You asked, Commissioner Bibb, what it is that we would like. We would like to see a supplemental EIR. You get two years to do it. Obviously they’re going to willing to pay for it. If it comes back clean I’m willing to be the liaison between KB Home and the city. I’ll get some other folks that can be trusted.”
When it came to trusting someone at this meeting, the commissioners certainly put their confidence in Dewey Runkle a direct descendant of the first Runkle to purchase the property in 1913. Runkle spoke to the issue of the tanks
“We used it for cattle storage water,” Runkle told the commissioners. “The windmill only pumps a little bit at a time so it pumps in, it comes in, goes in to the tanks and then the bigger tank it goes in and when it fills it there’s a hose that went over to the little one to fill it and then, of course, on the bottom there’s pipes going over to the water trough that would be below it.”
Very convincing testimony. Yet photos clearly show that there are no pipes coming out of the bottom of these tanks, though they run alongside it unconnected, as one would expect if they actually were used for watering cattle. They only are open at the top.
Nonetheless, commissioner Scott Santino took this statement, which was either incorrectly remembered or a factual inaccuracy, as gospel truth when he made his key decision to vote for the extension.
“I thought that the tanks were the smoking gun,” Santino said. “To have Mr. Runkle come up here tonight and say ‘Yeah, my family put them up there.’ This is the owner of the property. This is Mr. Runkle. This isn’t his third removed nephew. This is the man so when I saw him my jaw dropped to have him answer my personal question ‘what were the tanks for?’ ‘They were store the water. They were to feed our cows. I could see the trough there. I have to tell you that was impactful to me to hear the man who has been on that property, what the family has owned it [since] 1914. So for me, I haven’t seen anything to preclude this going forward at this point.”
Certainly not the facts – Santino claimed he had climbed all over the tanks in a jaunt up to the windmill well with Commissioner Rice courtesy of DiPrima. Even with a little flashlight and camera, somehow Santino, who claimed to be a hydrologist, missed the fact that the tanks have no way to let the water out once it’s put in save for sucking it out with a tube, a technique most well known as the way to siphon a gas tank.
“The first thing I know about hydraulics is if you’re going to inject a pressurized system into a pressurized system, this motor better be stronger than that motor and there is no motor on the tanks,” Santino said. “It’s a well, an old style well that’s driven off of the wind and it’s still functional. It still goes up and down. Whether it pumps water, I can’t tell you but the point being when I looked at all piping I thought, I was thinking ‘What would be the purpose? Why would somebody fill up this tank with some kind of chemical, a contaminate, to put down the well. I got to be honest. Just pull the plug on the tank and drain on the grass. It would be easier.”
DiPrima’s biggest gamble was to bring the former DTSC Runkle Canyon and Rocketdyne project director Norman Riley to the podium. Riley, who served in that capacity from April 2007 until October 2009, was the controversial figure greeted enthusiastically by the community at first but Riley was soon became at odds with longtime activists for his perceived toadying to SSFL lab owner Boeing as well as KB Home (See “Riley’s Revenge,” September 15, 2009).
Yet despite being sacked nearly three years ago, and having nothing to do with the subsequent 2010 testing, Riley imparted a litany of factual inaccuracies all the while presenting himself as if he still working for DTSC. Riley also falsely claimed that he himself had signed the No Further Action notice, when in fact he had been ‘retired’ for over a year when the NFA was inked. The pomposity of Riley’s false portrayal worked perfectly with the commissioners who hung on his every word.
“We don’t simply take the information and take it at face value,” Riley intoned. “We look behind the data. We ask whether the samples were properly collected, whether they were properly preserved, whether they were properly tested and whether the results are therefore believable.”
Riley became less ‘believable’ as he went on, even as commissioners started shifting in their seats. Indeed, Riley was reading from prepared text meaning that his misuse of the present tense was no mistaken misunderstanding of English grammar.
“Well, we DTSC [sic] did some additional testing in an effort to confirm whether those results were real or whether they were not. We purposely, intentionally went to locations where we thought we’d get the highest results, locations where the high results came from in 1999. No high results were found.”
But Riley went nowhere with DTSC to do additional testing because he already was long gone from DTSC. The vengeful retired DTSC man saved the best of the worst for last.
In the video to the left, Norman Riley testifies at the Simi Valley Planning Commission meeting on June 20, repeatedly presenting himself as if he still worked at DTSC and stating that he issued the NFA determination (minute 14:58) though he was no longer at the agency at the time it was issued.
“DTSC is satisfied that the property is safe for unrestricted residential use that’s why I issued a No Further Action determination,” Riley said, knowing full well he didn’t sign the NFA – DTSC’s actual Runkle Canyon Project Manager Mark Malinowski did. “We don’t do that sort of thing carelessly and we certainly don’t do it because we are controlled by entities like KB Home.” (*Update – Riley was more clear about who he worked for at the subsequent July 16 City Council meeting, stating, “I am here tonight on behalf of Runkle Canyon LLC.”)
Again, the royal ‘we’ indicating continued employment by DTSC when, in fact, KB Home arranged for Riley to come to Simi Valley to spread spout factual inaccuracies to the planning commission long after he had left DTSC.
Were these “factual inaccuracies,” a term coined by KB Home attorney Preston Brooks at a previous planning commission meeting, or was it flat out lying enabled by the fact that Riley wasn’t sworn in? Whatever it was, Riley was not to be outdone by DiPrima as KB Home came down the home stretch in their response to comments of the public, including this reporter’s brief words to the commission.
“I’ve been accused many times of lying tonight,” DiPrima said. “In fact I heard Mr. Collins say that we denied access, Runkle Canyon LLC denied access to the Regional Water Quality Control Board and he [Collins] never lies. In 2004, we didn’t even own the property, we didn’t even know anything about the property.”
As can be heard on the city’s recording of the event, I never made such a claim. DiPrima spun this out of thin air with no basis in truth or reality. DiPrima also resorted to twisting the words of Malinowski as he pointed at this reporter: “The opponents have reached out – I have an email from Mark Malinowski – to the opponents actually saying ‘we’ve consulted with USEPA and we see no reason to rescind the NFA.’”
While true Malinowski consulted with USEPA about the new radiological and chemical concerns regarding Runkle Canyon, the federal agency gave neither a thumbs up or thumbs down. Indeed, a source close to USEPA told EnviroReporter.com July 15 that the agency was to maintain a “hands off” stance towards this latest round of debate over whether KB Home should be granted a five-year extension.
KB Home and DiPrima’s extraordinary efforts to sway the Planning Commission were aided by amateur filmmaker and activist Adam Salkin, who assembled a camera-toting crew and secretly wired the dais with microphones for sound without informing the commissioners. That’s against California law.
When the commissioners realized that their private conversations with each other had been covertly recorded, several of them went understandably ballistic and subsequently voted unanimously to approve the extension.
As the public part of the meeting closed and the floor was open for the Simi Valley Planning Commission to makes its decision, it became clear just how extensive and damaging Salkin’s intrusion into the Runkle Canyon issue was for the residents of Simi Valley. Salkin’s repeated attempts to secretly film the commissioners were laid bare as was the harm done to the public process by these illegal activities.