Calling biomedical nuke & chemical dump ‘green space’ for recreation will expose future veteran residents and VA workers to radiation
A comprehensive analysis of the Department of Veterans Affairs already approved draft master plan for its West Los Angeles VA campus finds repeated and coordinated instances of fraudulent information, an EnviroReporter.com investigation has found.
The 813-page document released January 28 to much fanfare misidentifies the biomedical nuclear and chemical dump as “green space” with no restrictions presently upon its use. Maps and charts indicate that the extensive dumping grounds are already being used for “recreation.”
That is false. The dump site is still under the oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] and is off limits to the public.
A $2 million VA study of the site precipitated by EnviroReporter.com’s reporting confirmed high radiation and chemicals as reported in West LA VA ‘master plan’ covers up its chemical and nuclear dump December 17, 2015. Radium, tritium, benzene and chloroform were some of the toxins found in the dump’s soil, groundwater and gas seeping out of the ground.
Reclassifying a confirmed toxic waste dump as recreational green space so future veteran residents can use the grounds without any remediation would seem ill-advised. Yet that is exactly what the VA is doing and it could save a bundle doing so.
Plus, there is little the public can do about it. The draft master plan is already approved and will not be taking any more public comment.
“During the 45-day public comment period, VA received a record setting 1,002 submissions,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald wrote in the plan’s executive summary. “These comments were carefully reviewed and considered in this revised framework Draft Master Plan.”
EnviroReporter.com’s comment must have been missed. “Building in the dump area before thoroughly excavating it could lead to uncontrolled radiological and chemical releases to the environment, threaten the health and safety of workers during excavation and construction and of Veterans living in this part of the VA in the future,” the comment stated.” Impacted dust from excavation and construction could impact the public in apartments and condominiums along the dump on Barrington Avenue if excavation of the contamination doesn’t take place first.”
The VA has other ideas – Rename it and they will forget.
The draft master plan’s Existing Conditions and Site Analysis [3.8 MB; p. IV.17] has an “Existing Open Space” map that shades the entire dump the color that the map legend says is “Existing Green Space.” The analysis also says “With minimal intervention, the arroyo may be returned to a more natural form with naturalized grade and planting.”
That means no cleanup whatsoever even with a $2 million report showing that the expansive dump’s radiation and chemicals’ continuing impact on the environment. The VA claims that the expensive report says that the Brentwood dump is safe. But that declaration is predicated on the dump remaining as it is – left alone. While even that assessment is wrong as we have shown, it is based on leaving the land surrounded by fence and isolated.
The VA has not done a study on reworking the land of the dump that says it is safe to do so. What it has done is sneak into its draft master plans false maps, phony data and misleading information about how the process works regarding the dump.
The draft master plan has big plans for the VA dump and none of them involve remediating the land. They do involve renaming the area and misstating the legal status of the land. They also involve repeated attempts to misrepresent the land and then, based on those misrepresentations, include grading terraces, cutting new trails and building a plaza smack dab in the center of VA’s own nuclear and chemical disposal site.
In the Master Plan Development document [5.1 MB; p. V.18], the “Vision Plan” map names the dump “Arroyo Park” which is shaded in the green open space hue. Visions are acceptable of course. But the “Parcel Plan” map [p. V.22] indicates parcels 7, 8 and 9 on a map superimposed on the VA. Parcels 7 and 9 comprise the heart of the dump and, like 8, are all presently fenced off together with “DO NOT ENTER” signs.
Yet the very next page of the document has a key to the “Permitted Land Uses” of these three dump parcels. The “Current Use” is labeled as “GREEN SPACE/RECREATION (ARROYO).” The three parcels also have that same designation as their future “Preferred Use.” In other words, this land is supposedly already good to go and people are using it. That is false.
No wonder VA representatives were so eager to get away from EnviroReporter.com at the January 28 kickoff to the phony plan as previously reported in Brentwood nuke dump burns as VA finalizes draft master plan February 9. All the glad-handing in the world will not erase this shafting of America’s veterans who will be made to feel grateful to have a spiffy new park on top of a simple-to-dig-out nuclear waste disposal site that is going to be left in place.
Redefinition of the dump to harmless green space allows for the kind of map found in “Pedestrian Circulation” [p. V.38] where extensive new paths wander through the confirmed areas of the dump. The plaza planned for the center of site could be called Radiation Ravine or Tombstone Hill Plaza.
Environmental protections that could roll back this flawed draft master plan don’t look promising. “To date, VAGLAHS [VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System] has fully complied with all applicable laws and regulations related to this inactive medical waste burial site and, after thorough investigation, has not identified any potential health risks associated with the site,” says the draft master plan in its Existing Conditions and Site Analysis report, again not saying how developing the dump wouldn’t unleash its witches brew of radiation and chemicals. “VAGLAHS is required to obtain NRC approval for any change in status of this site.”
Getting the NRC to approve of any VA “change of status” to the dump and inviting a green space recreational area would be of no surprise as to EnviroReporter.com. Both federal agencies have a stake in keeping the dump buried and forgotten.
We first reported December 10, 2009 in LA Weekly about the cozy relationship between the NRC and West LA VA with an eye and ear witness account, which came as a result of visiting the dump multiple times to see how long before the VA noticed all the atomic tombstones on that were rising up out of the dirt.
In the early afternoon February 4, 2009, this reporter noticed a trio of men standing on a bluff overlooking the dump. One of the men looked different to me as I looked at him with binoculars. Perhaps it was the suit but something in me said ‘that guy’s NRC.’ It turns out I was right as I later discovered.
Subsequently, the men were walking near where I was. The NRC official said that the NRC had “signed off” on the place. “We gave you a pass,” he said to a man with a VA badge accompanied by a younger VA-badged man.
“This is just perfect for the media,” said the NRC man as they walked toward their cars. “You build a dog park over a nuclear dump; people care more about dogs than people but people are walking on it.” Then the younger VA man piped up and said pointing at me, “Or like this guy reading the paper!” The man in the suit shushed him.
The NRC will undoubtedly give the VA another pass. But there is just one more obstacle – Secretary McDonald’s crew has to perform an environmental review. “VAGLAHS will further consider potential impacts associated with the draft master plan and the waste burial site in its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis,” the draft master plan says in Existing Conditions and Site Analysis. Of course, “consider” does not mean “will” as this carefully crafted passage shows.
Parsing the draft master plan reveals that VA may have already done its NEPA evaluation. “Sec. 1501.2 requires federal agencies to integrate the NEPA process with other planning at the earliest possible time to ensure that planning and decisions reflect environmental values, avoid delays later in the process, and head off potential conflicts,” says the draft master plan in Appendix E – Environmental Impact. “As such, the NEPA process was informally initiated within VA concurrent with development of the Draft Master Plan.” [Our emphasis]
That means that the phony maps and dump as green space designation switcheroo survived any sham environmental review because the NEPA team was aware of it the whole time.
While leaving the dump in place may save the VA headache and the American taxpayer a few dollars, it will be veterans who will pay the price for living next to Atomic Arroyo. So too will VA workers, gardeners, construction workers and possibly students and faculty of nearby Brentwood School.
The concept of actually cleaning up the site, and potentially paying veterans good wages to do it, seems lost on the Department of Veterans Affairs. Also lost on the public, veterans groups and political leaders is the grave dishonor being done to veterans even when the evidence is damning and indisputable. It is environmental folly, a FUBAR entirely of the VA’s making.