Gabe Goldman exploded in indignation at the mere suggestion something could be amiss at Brandeis-Bardin claiming he knew the land better than anyone other than Arness’ foreman who stayed on after he donated the ranch in order to keep running it. “The KNBC story on Camp Alonim / BBI is the cruelest and ugliest example of “investigative reporting” that I’ve seen since reading about Israel,” Goldman declared. “Additionally, testing of water and soil and plants on the BBI side under that range never showed any contamination, radiological or chemical. When KNBC says they uncovered a document, it’s more bullcrapola – one of the former BBI Board or staff gave it to them.”
American Jewish University wasn’t done with KNBC either. “This latest story from KNBC continues to create gross misperceptions about the Brandeis-Bardin property and more than two decades of environmental test results that affirm the property is safe,” said Wexler in a Nov. 21, 2015 letter to the “Alonim Family.”
“Earlier this month, the DTSC confirmed the safety of the Brandeis site at a public workshop. And as recently as October 15, 2015, the DTSC wrote: “Based on available data, there is no evidence of contamination from SSFL [the Santa Susana Field Laboratory] that poses an off-site threat to human health or the environment.” This is very clear-no threat to human health or the environment extending beyond SSFL. This statement can only be understood to refer to the entire 2,700-acre Brandeis-Bardin property.” [Wexler emphasis]
In another bullet point, Wexler wrote “In 1995, the EPA determined there were low levels of contamination in remote areas of what was then Brandeis-Bardin property, but declared: “…the theoretical cancer probability or risk to campers and camp counselors is less than the EPA’s.” [Wexler emphasis]
In May 2016, AJU claimed that new “extensive” testing it commissioned proved that there was no “unacceptable” risk to public health on its property. But an NBC4 investigation revealed numerous problems. Experts including Bob Alvarez, former senior adviser to the United States Secretary of Energy, and Dan Hirsch, director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at UC Santa Cruz, criticized the study for taking too few samples.
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The study took only 14 samples out of Brandeis’ 2,878 acres. Even so, according to Hirsch, one of those 14 samples found Strontium-90 at two and half times local background. Critics of the study also noted that it did not test for many chemicals known to be on the SSFL property. AJU also claimed that the US EPA had found the site safe – claims denied by EPA when asked by the KNBC I-Team.
The lab that AJU chose to conduct the study, Tetra Tech, was recently fined $7,000 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for deliberately falsifying soil samples from another former nuclear site in San Francisco. Even so, by simply agreeing to “Discuss the facts and lessons learned from this event with its employees who are engaged in licensed activities within 180 days, emphasizing the importance of not engaging in willful activities in violation of NRC’s regulations,” Tetra Tech avoided the fine.
This time, AJU lashed out at KNBC before the segment even aired, sending KNBC a letter stating that, “We remain concerned that the piece you plan on airing tonight might defame BBC by implying that wrongful conduct has been perpetrated by AJU or that the safety of our campers or visitors to our campus has in some manner been compromised.”
“Fission Products” and “Reactor Control Rods”
Typically the most damning contamination findings come in dense scientific reports that require a keen eye to find data related to Brandeis-Bardin if, that is, it exists at all. Another such report arrived January 20, 2016. The 239 page study [36.98 MB] for the Department of Energy was called “Department of Energy (DOE) RCRA Facility Investigation Groundwater Work Plan Portions of Area IV under DOE Responsibility.”
A trio of Brandeis-Bardin wells called RD-59A, RD-59B and RD-59C has yielded some shocking results with Area IV’s nuclear contamination fingerprints. “The cluster is located below the escarpment with groundwater flow from the mountain resulting in a generally upward gradient,” the report says. “The heads of B and C are above the ground surface and result in flowing artesian conditions.”
They also result in some extraordinary readings. RD-59A, monitored from 1989 to 2011, had a high for radioactive tritium with a reading of 110 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). “No SSFL operations occurred off-site,” read the report before making an incredible leap of logic. “Tritium detection frequency and activity confirm that there are no tritium off-site sources. No future action is required for off-site wells.”
Later in the report, RD-59A is recorded as having a filtered reading of Cadmium-113m of 9,700 pCi/L. The well is subsequently recommended for future sampling because “Cadmium-113m neutron activation of Cadmium-112 used in reactor control rods – possibly site process related.” [Report emphasis] Presumably, “site process related” means that it came from SSFL activities.
RD-59B also directly tied Area IV’s radiation contamination spreading offsite in Brandeis-Bardin’s groundwater. The well tested positive for radioactive Tin-126. The report advocated continued testing of this well too. “Tin-126 is a fission product and is possibly site process related.” [Report emphasis]
Nothing says radioactive contamination more than finding a “possibly site process related” isotope directly related to nuclear reactors downhill from Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. Yet nothing is what AJU has had to say about it. Either Brandeis-Bardin representatives had no clue of the findings or they did know these astonishing results and chose not to share them.
Neither explanation can account for the institution’s howling of certainty that its property has not been impacted by SSFL by one iota. The information kept on coming, courtesy of the department supposedly in charge of the Rocketdyne cleanup, a government agency also apparently blind to the data that the DOE created.
New Toxic Fluoride Levels in Brandeis-Bardin Groundwater
DTSC sent EnviroReporter.com an email “DTSC-SSFL Document Upload Notification: SSFL NASA Area I LOX and Area II Groundwater Monitoring Report Third Quarter 2016” with a link to the report [1,180 PDF pages; 17.3 MB] November 30, 2016. “Monitoring wells RD-68A and RD-68B and seep well SP-29B are the only wells located offsite that were sampled during the third quarter 2016,” the report says of these wells which are on Brandeis-Bardin property. “Fluoride was detected above the SSFL comparison level of 0.8 mg/L [milligrams per liter] at RD-68B and SP-29B at concentrations of 0.97 mg/L and 4.8 mg/L, respectively.”
While fluoride might seem an innocuous chemical added to drinking water to fight cavities, or a threat to “precious bodily fluids” as comically suggested in Dr. Strangelove, it is hazardous at high levels.
Artesian well SP-29B’s 4.8 milligrams/liter of water more than doubles California’s MCL for the chemical. A reading of 4.2 mg/L in the same well in the 1st Quarter shows that the toxic level of fluoride in Brandeis-Bardin water has increased.
“Samples collected from SP-29B were submitted for radionuclide analysis during third quarter 2016,” the NASA report added. “Nine individual radionuclides were detected, for which there are screening criteria for only five of these analytes (gross alpha, gross beta, gross beta-decanted, uranium-233/234, and uranium-238).” Actual levels of the radiation weren’t provided. The report also didn’t list exactly what the other four radionuclides were or their amounts either.
Fluoride might seem an odd chemical to find at such high levels in Brandeis-Bardin gurgling out of its artesian water. Yet according to an April 14, 1983 Rockwell International memo obtained by EnviroReporter.com entitled “LETF Fluoride Incident, 3 March through 31 March 1983,” contaminated water from the Bowl Area [R-1] and Perimeter Pond reservoirs at SSFL was sprayed on the surrounding area dirt to bring down the levels of fluoride.
“I originally proposed this spray disposal system during the mid summer fluoride incident of June 1981 to evaporate the large volume of contaminated water at R-1,” wrote C. E. Winzer in the “Internal Letter” to L. D. Schmued. “[C]ontinued spraying with fluoride reduction due to salt formation afforded the most suitable treatment process. Run-off from this spray was monitored daily for magnitude and reduction.”
According to the US National Council on Research, toxic concentrations of fluoride in drinking water can lead to weakened bones and cause hip and wrist fractures. In Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards (2006), the council said fractures occur at fluoride levels of 1 to 4 mg/L. Brandeis-Bardin’s artesian levels of fluoride were found in excess of this in samples pulled twice in 2016. The hazards of fluoride at high levels has been known for decades. Clinically-significant renal dysfunction is possible with fluoride drinking water levels of 1 ppm according to “Metabolism and renal effect of enflurane in men” in the journal Anesthesiology in 1976.
AJU Jolts Jewish Journal
New information was provided December 7, 2016 by the Jewish Journal when it published a piece saying that some of Brandeis-Bardin’s soil was going to be remediated by the Department of Energy. The DOE had found toxins at levels above background on camp property and were considering removal of the dirty dirt according to the story.
Jewish Journal had learned of the plan from part of a DTSC draft environmental impact report on the upcoming remediation of Area IV given to it by Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog. Accompanying the news article was correspondence between AJU and the paper, as well as an undated DOE list of contaminants it found in Brandeis-Bardin.
AJU sent a scathing letter to the publication telling the reporter that she had no story. “We are concerned and surprised that the Jewish Journal refuses to accept the science-based verdict of DTSC, supported by reams of test results and careful analysis, and instead insists upon perpetuating a harmful and false impression about the safety of our property,” wrote Rabbi Jay Strear from the office of AJU’s senior vice president November 28, 2016. “In doing so, the Jewish Journal does a disservice to us and to our community.”
“In short, the samples show a soil profile that is not meaningfully different from what you would find if you sampled the average American front lawn,” Strear wrote. “Since DTSC has stated explicitly that there is no risk to human health in these sample results or in any other data collected from BBC to date, it is difficult for me to understand how an article about a project description included in a preliminary administrative draft EIR [Environmental Impact Report] would provide any meaningful information to your readership. On the contrary, it could well serve to give further unfounded cause for concern.”
Strear may have not known that the significance of the data he included with his missive to Jewish Journal. It had a list of Brandeis-Bardin contaminants found above Area IV background levels with their exact Brandeis-Bardin measurements. Assuming the veracity of the document, the DOE was likely investigating contamination pathways as part of its AOC-related investigation into the extent of its toxins in soil. DOE representatives have stated publicly that if Area IV contamination was found offsite, it would clean it up. It seems the draft EIR indicates it will do just that which would be good news if AJU welcomed it and the resultant cleanup. Plus, it would cost the camp nothing.
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NASA has an identical AOC with DTSC. Both AOCs include soil and groundwater. Any contamination emanating from SSFL down drainages adjacent the site is supposed to remediated as well hence why the DOE followed the contamination down into Brandeis-Bardin when it made its discoveries. All of the excess radiation and chemicals have to go if the cleanup is to be complete and leave such offsite locations safe for future generations.
Strear’s DOE list of contaminants showed background threshold values multiple times their Area IV BTVs. The test results, called “Drainages from Area IV onto Brandeis Property Soil Data Summary Soil Samples Exceeding DTSC Look-Up Table Values,” has written on it in red ink “none are SSFL related” with no explanation how that could be.
That the Jewish Journal would publish a summary that makes the unlikely assertion that none of the chemicals tested high are related to Area IV with no analysis would seem puzzling were it not for another strange turn of events when the article was published. The title of the piece, “Remote Brandeis-Bardin area may need cleanup,” was amended within hours of going on the Jewish Journal website to “Remote Brandeis-Bardin area may need cleanup, no health threat seen.” Then the headline went under a third revision with “Remote Brandeis-Bardin area may need cleanup, state officials see no health threat.”
No explanation was given for the addition of “no health threat seen” and then that the state doesn’t see one either. Yet it was, literally, correct. DTSC has always said there is no health threat so it doesn’t ‘see it.’ Jewish Journal didn’t see a health threat either because it apparently didn’t analyze DOE’s numbers. If it had, it would have found what EnviroReporter.com did by simply cross-checking them with their publicly available BTVs.