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“After we received the letter back from the Department of Health Services, they had at the conclusion of their report that they identified that it might be advisable to do additional testing,” said Laura Behjan, assistant city manager. “We did meet with KB and talk with them about that and they indicated that they were willing to do some additional testing.”

Silence descended on the conference room in Simi Valley City Hall when Behjan, Miller, and Sedell heard that the group had gone up and taken and tested their own samples and had done so without trespassing on the property which is used every day by hikers and people walking their dogs. Matheney told the trio of having permission of the previous owner of GreenPark Runkle Canyon, LLC, Peter Kiesecker, as well as Bill Avery, who ran about 300 head of arsenic-drinking cattle in Runkle Canyon until they were shipped to Camarillo last spring.

“But [Kiesecker is] not the owner anymore, there’s a new owner,” countered Sedell. “I’m not trying to challenge you, but they were stolen samples that [you] were trespassing to get. Peter used to let people go up there. KB has not kept that policy up.”

“Regardless, they’re not going to outrightly believe that your samples are valid, even if you had permission to go up and get them, because they’re your samples and you have a different agenda,” Sedell continued. “We need other samples to be taken.”

Sensing where this was going, I interjected. “First let me address that. We never touched the samples. The samples were sampled by Pat-Chem lab. They touched them. The chain of custody is intact – photographs prove it. These guys didn’t pee in the cup, so to speak.”

“I think what troubles me most is when we talked about this and we said, ‘Do you guys want to go up there with us?’ [and you say] ‘Well, KB says everything is okay.’ So we had to do it,” said Southwick. “The lab I had do the testing is one of most prestigious labs in the United States.”

“But from a perception point, we’re still the middle guys on this thing,” Sedell said. “KB is on one side, you’re on the other in public perception so you’re probably best to have us go up there. I don’t mind if both sides watch it but that we try to facilitate what happens just for appearances if nothing else.”

Touchy as nerves got, the meeting ended amicably with the city pledging to do more investigating. Mayor Miller even smiled at Rev. Southwick as we adjourned. “We’re on your side,” Miller said as we left the room.

If history is any indicator, the city is anything but on the side of its citizens concerned about chemicals and radiation in Runkle Canyon. Nor is it an objective bystander. It stands to lose over $4.5 million alone from the permitting of the KB Homes project. Many millions more would flow from future taxes and services from the thousands of people who would live in Runkle Canyon.

“If [Rocketdyne] didn’t have such gross felonies on the record, it wouldn’t be so bad. But when KB Homes is following the lead of a known felon already, with minimal testing, there is something they’re hiding,” Matheney said after the meeting. “For the retired chief of police, the mayor, not to smell something suspicious is very hard to believe. If he pulled somebody over in a car and they gave him the excuses they’re giving us, he’d know something was wrong. What is he missing now?”

“Perchlorate Patty” Coryell thinks she knows why. “The elected representatives in Simi Valley left ‘credible deniability’ behind years ago – I found so many news stories, magazine articles, and internet reports describing the Rocketdyne contamination that I realized there are only three ways to explain the city’s reaction: they are incompetent or oblivious or in Rocketdyne’s pocket. You can damn well bet that these leaders aren’t going to run unopposed again for public office in 2008.”

Portions of the Runkle Canyon sampling and analysis reports, photographs of testing, and other comprehensive Runkle Canyon information are available at EnviroReporter.com.

24 Years of Award-Winning SSFL/Rocketdyne Reporting
June 1998June 2022

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