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A popular Brentwood dog park on Veterans Administration property is built over an old radioactive waste dump that may soon be unearthed by proposed development

By Michael Collins

Los Angeles CityBeat – May 25, 2006

Real Hot Property - LA CityBeat

SUVs and luxury sedans glide into the Barrington Dog Park just south of Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood, where industry types and soccer moms chatter on cell phones as dogs like the Australian Shepherd named Mick Jagger and a pug called Spanky bound out of their cars to romp with other privileged pooches. It’s a scene that represents one ideal of Westside living. Draped with eucalyptus trees, the park is popular with celebrities, including Dustin Hoffman, Kirsten Dunst, and Owen Wilson. It hosts an annual “Bow-wow-ween” festival in October, with costumed dogs judged by NoTORIous television star Tori Spelling.

Just adjacent to the park, on another piece of the Veterans Administration campus, is MacArthur Field, which is often packed with hundreds of young soccer players. Errant balls often fly off the field and into a ravine that borders both the field and the dog park, and which is surrounded by a chain-link fence. And down in that ravine is evidence that this idyllic playland may have a poisonous heart.

Exclusive 2019 Update: VICTORY AT THE VA – West LA Veterans Administration master plan protects old nuclear dump from development

Players and curious kids access the ravine through an unsecured gate on the VA field, ignoring the faded paper warning signs. The ones that say: “THIS IS A CLOSED SITE.” What those signs don’t say is that this ravine is the barely covered core of a radioactive waste dump, which stretches underneath parts of the dog park and borders the athletic field. From (1948) to 1968, UCLA and the West L.A. Veterans Administration, now called the Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Healthcare Center, used the land adjacent to and under the park to bury radioactive biomedical research waste.

The wastes buried there, according to research records unearthed by CityBeat, include barrels of radioactive tritium and lab wastes, and animal carcasses from Atomic Age-experiments involving the toxic radionuclides carbon-14, zinc-65, strontium-85 and strontium-90, gold-198, iodine-125, cobalt-60, copper-67, manganese-54, xenon-133, indium-113, calcium-47, iron-59, and several others. A central dirt mound of plant-covered debris sits in the middle of the dump, emitting high ambient radiation readings. This reporter, using a nuclear radiation monitor, detected shards of radioactive glass that registered more than four times normal.

Carcasses of radioactive lab dogs, cats, and a menagerie of animals make up approximately half of the toxic trash deep-sixed there. The dumping was done before regulations were created to control these wastes. Raw wastes were tossed or poured into the dump, deposited in unlined trenches and holes with nary a record of the dumping for the first eight years of operation. But these materials have a long life as poisons. The carbon-14 isotope, for instance, has a half-life of 5,730 years. The location was also used as a chemical waste disposal site for the VA and UCLA.

The issue of what exactly is in the dump has been effectively buried by VA and regulatory officials, who managed to thwart comprehensive and scientifically sound investigation of the site and allowed it to be covered with a park. Now, however, this land is part of the most prized underdeveloped acreage left in Los Angeles – the 387-acre VA grounds straddling Wilshire Boulevard just west of the San Diego freeway. It is being studied for development under a new plan called Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services or CARES; an acronym that emerged after a 1999 report estimated that the U.S. government was spending $1 million a day on inefficient VA property. CARES is part of a larger strategy to restructure the VA to ensure its financial solvency through 2022. The West L.A. VA site is being eyed as one of those properties, the development of which could begin in 2009 and possibly unearth the dump.

The prospect that this treasured land could be built out alarms many of its neighbors, including the 27,000 people who make up the Bel-Air Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council. “The land was donated in 1888 as an Old Soldier’s Home and must remain for the direct benefits of veterans,” reads a petition sent by group members to Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson in December. “It must not be sold or commercially developed. As the CARES process moves forward, any land use proposals must preserve the remaining 387 acres for direct benefits of veterans and must be compatible with the surrounding communities.”

And then, of course, there’s the issue that such development may be toxic. Despite a spirited campaign to get the dump properly characterized in the early 1980s, a Los Angeles-based nuclear watchdog, the Committee to Bridge the Gap (CBG), lost the battle over the dump after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the VA convinced a concerned public, media, and key politicians that building a park on the site would be perfectly fine. Since 1985, a leased city of Los Angeles park has sat on 12 acres of this VA land. A section of the Barrington Recreation Center was carved out in the fall of 2003 for the present-day dog park. The southern end of the off-leash area lies over a known chunk of the nuke dump, as does deep center field of one of the park’s baseball diamonds.

“We thought a nuclear dump in Brentwood was impossible,” said CBG founder Dan Hirsch in a series of interviews begun in 2001. “They generally put them near poor people. Then we researched and discovered that indeed the VA had been dumping radioactive waste [there].”

The same kind of biomedical radiation research was also done at UC Davis. There, residual radiation from experiments on more than 1,000 irradiated beagles resulted in its dump being declared an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site in the early 1990s. The cost of cleaning up the Davis dump was $33 million. No comprehensive analysis of the West L.A. VA dump has ever been done, nor any remediation of the nuclear and chemical hazards that remain buried there.

“The Committee to Bridge the Gap tried to make everyone aware of the potential dangers of the dump a quarter century ago,” says former CBG Research Director Dr. Bennett Ramberg, now a national and international columnist on nuclear issues. “But in the singular drive of local politicians to have their park, they didn’t listen and painted CBG as anti-nuke loonies. What they didn’t count on was any kind of in-depth investigation of the site and what went in it and what could’ve gone in it.”

The new initiative to develop the VA has inadvertently divulged that the Brentwood nuclear dump is even larger than previously estimated. Last September, a member of the local CARES advisory panel leaked a detailed preliminary report on the site conducted by VA contractor PricewaterhouseCoopers that described the Brentwood nuke dump in detail, and said:

“The biomedical, radioactive medical waste and [asbestos containing material] containing construction debris waste sites are all now buried under 15′ to 30′ of fill material areas leased to the Brentwood School for use as athletic fields.”

This information was later followed by another astonishing statement.

“The fact that this area has already been developed for use as athletic fields indicates that:

1. Either the public was not informed as to the contaminates under the athletic fields, or

2. These environmental hazards did not trigger a significant negative public reaction from nearby residents (including parents of students using the fields).”

The Brentwood School, one of the most prestigious private schools in the nation, has a 20-year enhanced sharing land use agreement with the VA that expires June 2020.

These PricewaterhouseCoopers disclosures have resulted in a flurry of government denials and mischaracterizations of the 13 radionuclides known to be present in the waste site. The investigation of this forgotten dump has been encumbered every step of the way by a recalcitrant Veterans Administration – which has now tried to distance itself from the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which cost taxpayers nearly $10 million to complete.

After five years of investigation, CityBeat has found that the dump is the product of either an inept Department of Veterans Affairs blithely unaware of the dangers deep in the dirt of Brentwood – or a VA that knows precisely what’s buried in the dump but is still doggedly determined to develop one of the most valuable chunks of federal land in the nation.

Toxic Legacy

No one is exactly sure how much radiation is secreted in the Brentwood dump. What is known, however, is that no amount of radiation exposure is safe for humans. In late July 2005, the National Academy of Sciences came out with a milestone report that confirmed this. “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionized radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” said Richard R. Monson, the panel chairman and a professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

The VA and UCLA were part of America’s massive Cold War enterprise to understand the biological effects of that radiation, and experiments were done on both animals and humans. A 1996 government report titled “The Human Radiation Experiments,” put together by the President’s Advisory Committee, says, “By 1974, according to VA reports, more than 2,000 human radiation experiments would be performed at VA facilities, many of which would work in tandem with neighboring medical schools, such as the relationship between the UCLA medical school, where Stafford Warren was now dean, and the Wadsworth (West Los Angeles) VA Hospital.”

The refuse from some of these experiments ended up in the Brentwood dump. Existing records show that the most prevalent radionuclide at the VA dump site is tritium, which is “heavy water” or hydrogen-3. It’s the “H” in H-bomb. It has a half-life of 12.3 years, meaning that it halves itself during that time due to ionization. Heavy water was often just poured into holes dug at the Brentwood site. It was also put in bags and barrels with other radioactive waste. These dangerous practices were forbidden 11 years after the dump had closed in 1968. As more was learned about deadly radiation, liquid and solid waste were no longer allowed to be mixed or simply tossed together with animal carcasses. “Do not mix radioisotopes of short and long half-lives, or gamma with beta emitters,” one West L.A. VA memo instructed in 1979.

The existing VA records from 1960 to 1968 also reveal that the second most widespread rad waste at the Brentwood dump is carbon-14. “The reasons that C-14 cannot be stored until it decays to a safe level is that its half-life, 5,730 years, is so long – who can wait even one half-life?” said Dr. James Warf, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at USC and a group leader in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. “Most carbon-14 used in research is in the form of biochemically active forms, and therefore if ingested, could be dangerous.”

Toxic chemicals were also discarded during the 16 years that the VA dump was active. UCLA admitted that it had ditched known and unknown chemicals at the site in four-to-eight-foot-deep holes. The chemicals included toxic toluene and carcinogenic dioxane. “If someone were to dig down in the old site they might find intact containers of toluene or dioxane,” wrote former UCLA director of Research and Occupational Safety, William E. Wegst in 1981. “I suppose one could imagine various hazardous scenarios developing as a result of someone digging many holes and retrieving many intact bottles of solvent.”

Record-keeping at UCLA of its radioactive waste disposal from the late 1940s to the early 1970s seems nonexistent. “We have searched high and low and still haven’t found anything in our waste records back that far,” says Rick Greenwood, adjunct professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health and director of the UCLA Office of Environment, Health and Safety. “We have gone through our records and we really don’t have anything, not even a hint of a record, in the time period we had discussed.”

But some records do exist and show that UCLA used the VA dump to dispose of tritium and radioactive animal carcasses. A comprehensive examination of thousands of pages of Atomic Energy Commission-funded experiments at the university, from the radiation program’s inception in 1948 to the mid-1960s, shows the use of at least 37 different radionuclides. Other records gleaned from the files of Committee to Bridge the Gap, the VA, and UCLA confirm nuclear waste dumping at the site.

From Dump to Dog Park

The off-leash park opened in the fall of 2003 after being carved out of the original 12 acres that the city of Los Angeles leases from the VA for a dollar a year. It is run by L.A. Recreation and Parks and overseen by the Friends of Barrington Dog Park (FOBDP), whose waste worries extend mostly to dog doo.

“People usually come here and try to just keep a low profile,” said FOBDP founder Sue Black. “And they are usually so successful at that, most of the time you don’t recognize them. I actually spoke with Brooke Shields once a while back, and she was so open and natural and normal that even though she obviously looked like her, I pretty much didn’t get who she was until I overheard someone else mention it. And that’s what’s so nice about it.”

The dog park sits on a bluff overlooking the ravine in which the dump sprawls eastward. Across this gully is the huge MacArthur Field used by teams from the Coast Soccer League, including the Galaxy Fusion and the Westside Breakers – “the premier girls’ soccer club on the Westside area of Los Angeles,” says the group’s website. Rule No. 1 for playing at the VA field is quite clear. “STAY within the field area. DO NOT let children play on the hills or stray into brushy areas.”

Posted warning signs, just pieces of paper in plastic sheet protectors, give few clues as to what lies underground. No biohazard signs. No indication of toxics. The signs do say that only authorized personnel are allowed and that no trespassing or excavating is permissible. When asked if the kids ever went into the ravine, one parent watching practice said, “All the time. They kick the balls over that fence.”

When the Committee to Bridge the Gap became aware that late Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude and former local Congressman Anthony Beilenson were in negotiations with the VA for a park over the rumored nuke dump, beginning in August 1979, it began extensive research on the site. CBG issued a press release in March 1981 that pointed out some of the main radionuclides known to be at the dump, but also stated that coring was needed to investigate the extent of the contamination.

Coring remains the only way to find out what is in the dump, as the VA only has a crude map of three areas where it tossed toxics for the 16 years of operation. Coring, simply put, is the process of drilling into the earth with a hollow tube and extracting an undisturbed sample of soils and debris. “Radioactive waste was disposed of by burial without knowledge as to the amount, depth, or spacing of burials,” reads a May 1960 Atomic Energy Commission compliance report noting VA noncompliance with regulations. “No records of radiation disposal were maintained.” Internal VA letters show that the VA was concerned about getting AEC approval for some of its dumping.

Braude and Beilenson quickly responded to CBG’s concerns and promised “independent testing and analysis of the substances in this disposal site.” The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, which formed out of the AEC in 1974, quickly dismissed CBG’s concerns. In an internal communication, dated April 24, 1981, then-NRC Region V Chief of the Radiological Safety Branch, Herbert E. Book, wrote that even though “Precise calculations are not possible with the available data,” there was no possible harm emitting from the tritium and carbon-14 buried in the dump. Book reasoned that since NRC regulations had been recently amended to exempt minute amounts of radioactive biomedical wastes containing tritium and carbon-14, then the past dumping at the site was of no concern. “Thus, today the hospital could dispose of those materials containing H-3 and C-14 without limit and without any controls because of the radioactive content,” Book deducted. “It follows that there can be no possible hazard resulting from the H-3 or C-14 which has been buried in the past and their presence will not affect any future use of the property.”

But that statement is false – the new 1981 regulations said no such thing, and were referring to “tracer amounts” of tritium and carbon-14. This was the beginning of a set of NRC and VA fabrications and deceptions that set in motion a series of events that led to the building of the park.

Book cautioned against any NRC restrictions on the land. “If for some reason we were to place restrictions on future use of this property or if we should require corrective actions before its release, then we should follow the same requirements for all other such locations,” he wrote. “Logically, we would be compelled to search out all other such locations and place similar requirements on those properties. This, we believe is impractical and totally unnecessary. We recommend that the property at the Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles be released with no restrictions on its future use.”

Thirteen years after this statement was made, one of the “other such locations,” the UC Davis nuke dog dump, was discovered to be so hot as to make it a Superfund site. A Superfund site is any land identified by the U.S. EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and the environment. It is the worst of the worst.

In May 1981, five NRC inspectors went to the Brentwood dump site and did a 45-minute walking inspection with two gamma detectors and picked up nothing but background measurements. They noted that 20 to 30 feet of “fill material and dirt” had been added to the burial sites and “there were no radioactive materials detected.”

“That’s not going to tell you anything,” said Joseph Karbus at the time, regarding Geiger counter inspections of the dump. Karbus was the head of the Radiological Health Unit of the Los Angeles County Health Department. “You have to go down and take a core sample to find out anything.”

But by the end of August 1981, an NRC memorandum assured Beilenson and Braude that all was A-OK. “The risk from any radioactive material at this ? location is vanishingly small and should not be a factor in any decision regarding future use of this property.”

Beilenson couldn’t have been happier. “Without the assistance of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the park concept would have been totally abandoned,” Beilenson wrote to the commission September 14. “The NRC is to be commended for its efforts to educate the public regarding the safety of radioactive materials which were buried in the proposed park site.”

L.A. Dept. of Recreation & Parks signed off on the park in December 1981, basing its draft Environmental Impact Report on the NRC findings. Perhaps throwing a bone to the environmentalists, the draft EIR stated, “As an important note, major excavation activities will not occur during site preparation phase alleviating any concerns over unearthing buried materials.” CBG called the draft EIR “cavalier” for determining that there was no hazard at the site, decrying the report as “unsound, incomplete, and inconclusive.”

In early February 1982, the VA responded to a set of questions that CBG had submitted regarding the dump. The responses included three major fabrications revealed by the VA’s own documents. The VA declared that it didn’t exchange any radioactive materials with UCLA, but reports show it did under its joint AEC experiments. The VA falsely stated that there was no acceptance of radioactive waste from UCLA, yet logs from the time show that tritium and carbon-14 refuse from the university was buried in the Brentwood dump. And, most incredibly, the VA avowed, “So little C-14 was utilized … [it was] not buried on VA property to the best of our knowledge.” The VA’s own documents show carbon-14 as being the second most prevalent radionuclide in the dump.

The VA also claimed that all chemical-disposal records were destroyed after two years, therefore to speculate on them would be irresponsible. “As to how chemical waste had been disposed of by the VA during various periods since its inception, it would be pure conjecture on our part,” reads one VA document.

CBG made one last attempt to locate the buried radioactive waste, but before its field work could be done to detect mutated vegetation, the site was plowed under. “CBG was effectively spent – the political process had sucked the air out of any possibility of stopping the park,” says former CBG staffer Ramberg. “Regrettably, there was nothing left to do.”

In June 1983, the parks commission approved the project on a 3-1 vote despite protests from the newly formed Brentwood Citizens for a Safe Park, a group that was made up of about 300 apartment and condo dwellers on Barrington Avenue. The $1,044,000 park opened May 27, 1985. Braude and Beilenson threw out the first balls on a newly created baseball diamond that stretched over the nuclear waste dump in deep center field.

Standoff on Soldiers’ Soil

Out of 26 million American veterans nationwide, 2.3 million live in California, making the West L.A. VA one of the most important veteran centers in the United States. There are more veterans living within 50 miles of the facility than reside in 42 other states combined, according to the California Department of Veterans Affairs. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency recently estimated that, of the 82,291 homeless in the county, 15,420 of them are vets. The VA estimates that its West L.A. staff has served 60,000 homeless veterans over the past 10 years.

The Bush administration’s CARES master plan is supposed to help the VA face the challenges of escalating health care costs, a constrained budget, and a burgeoning population of vets returning home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The VA hopes to slim underused space 42 percent by 2022. The department is developing legislation for a so-called “independent real property disposal authority” to “dispose” of federal holdings and put the money back into health care and medical facilities.

Those are fighting words in Los Angeles, where new VA construction could begin as early as 2009. Last June, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors directed county attorneys to investigate all legal options in light of the possibility that CARES could allow commercial development of the VA site. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose Third District includes the VA, said he wanted to make sure that any development is consistent with county land-use policies and zoning ordinances. The VA is currently zoned public open space north of Wilshire, where the dump lies. “It is becoming increasingly apparent,” Yaroslavsky wrote in the motion, “that the VA is once again considering privatizing its West Los Angeles lands through sale or leases for purposes unrelated to the direct provision of veterans’ services as previously promised.”

Two days before the last local CARES meeting on September 22, the VA gave the local advisory panel PricewaterhouseCooper’s draft report on the West L.A. site. Before long, it was on the website of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), in whose district the dump is located. Specifically mentioning tentative interest in the property by biotech giants Amgen and Genentech, the report was bullish on the site: “With nearly 400 acres of low density development surrounded by the most valuable high density development in the Los Angeles area, the campus offers an unparalleled reuse/redevelopment opportunity.”

That September meeting, which lasted more than 10 hours and was attended by around 1,000 people, was held by a panel appointed by VA Secretary Nicholson. Only one audience member asked what was happening with toxic materials on the VA property and the status of its remediation. The panel seemed unaware of the dump and offered no suggestions. They did, however, issue nonbinding recommendations to Nicholson immediately after the hearing, although two more public meetings are scheduled. Their six guiding principles included reaffirmation of the federal Cranston Act, a 1988 law that protects the 109 northeastern acres of the site – which includes the dump and the park over it – from any development that does not directly benefit veterans.

PricewaterhouseCooper’s draft report on the VA site seems to indicate that, during the building of athletic fields now leased by the Brentwood School, some of the radioactive waste was removed to an “off-site disposal facility” and the rest left buried under these fields. The report suggests this may be a concern for development, saying, “Without a potentially negative public reaction to these types of wastes this end of the site may be considered as having a ‘Medium’ potential for development.”

This has led to some confusion among those directly affected by the dump.

“We have been consistently told by VA people that there was waste buried in an area that was not underneath our facility,” says Dan Winter, assistant headmaster for Brentwood School. “The waste that is referred to as radioactive, or whatever it is, is, as we understand it from previous discussions, down the arroyo, as they put it, from where our athletic fields were developed. I can’t explain why they would be confused about it because there have got to be records of the exact location.

“If any of that had been underneath the field, you can be assured that we would have had a whole different attitude about the project, I can tell you that,” continues Winter, also disclosing that Brentwood School pays the VA $325,000 a year to rent the area. “We would have been very, very leery about proceeding.”

In a January interview, VA officials offered up a series of contradictions and prevarications about what might be in that dump. Present at the meeting were Operations Officer Barbara Fallen, who is the VA’s point person on the West L.A. VA CARES initiative, Asset Management personnel Laurel Daniels and Katherine Steinberg-Bluth, and Ben K. Spivey, Chief, Occupational Safety and Health and Senior Industrial Hygienist for the West L.A. VA.

“The EPA considers [the dump] a closed site,” said Spivey. “They have confirmed that it is not very radioactive. It is mostly tritium and carbon-14 which have very short half-lives.”

To repeatedly characterize these two radionuclides as short-lived, and therefore harmless, is grossly inaccurate. Tritium, with a half-life of 12.3 years, is considered “intermediate-lived,” and carbon-14, with a half-life of 5,730 years, is “longer-lived,” according to numerous sources.

“It’s no longer radioactive,” Spivey continued, making the dump seem completely inert. The group went on to emphasize that the dump area – the arroyo below the Barrington Dog Park – lies buried under 25 feet of debris, and was found to be safe in a quarterly EPA inspection that was just completed two weeks before the meeting. “In addition to being fenced, there are no public activities in that area,” Fallen said.

Though maps from the 1970s and 1995 show that the buried radioactive material would lies under the city-leased park, Spivey disagreed with this. “There was no radioactive material buried under the Brentwood [park] lease site,” he said, referring to a diagram of the area that was created by Locus Technologies. Inexplicably, the late 2000 Locus map shows the Barrington Recreation Center baseball field and dog park common fence, adjacent and above the arroyo, making an angular bend that conveniently keeps the lease area from overlapping the radioactive dump. In fact, the fence makes no such jog – it is straight, and the lease area is clearly over part of the waste site depicted in the earlier maps. I asked Spivey if this new rendering meant that the dump wasn’t under the dog park. He nodded affirmatively.

The VA foursome seemed most emphatic when it came to the rad waste PricewaterhouseCoopers had reported as being under the Brentwood School’s athletic fields. Again, the 2000 Locus report was cited as proof that no radioactive waste was found. “Six soil borings were drilled at the location where apparent medical incinerator ash was encountered prior grading operations,” the report said, while also revealing that the material was tested for metals but not radiation.

“We actually had a Geiger counter with us, and we monitored every load that came out, every load that they were excavating” said Spivey. “It was dead inert debris that posed no harm to anyone.” Spivey displayed a photo album that showed these ash piles, and one picture had a man with a Geiger counter which measures gamma radiation.

“A Geiger counter wouldn’t work because much of this material would be alpha- or beta-emitting,” says CBG’s Hirsch. “Even if there were gamma-emitting material, you’d have to stand in that one spot for five or ten minutes and then stand in another spot for five or ten minutes to have a long enough count time to adequately detect it.”

So, how could the PricewaterhouseCoopers report have supposedly been so wrong about radioactive material being buried under the school’s athletic fields? “It was a draft report that was never reviewed,” said Daniels of VA Asset Management.

“We don’t know how they made the wrong assumptions, not knowing the site, not talking to experts like Ben [Spivey],” said Fallen. “The report should have gone through us. Ben, who’s the expert, was not consulted.”

“Let’s hope that you debunk the myth,” Daniels said as the meeting came to a close. When asked what myth she was referring to, the VA official said nothing.

Eliciting true and accurate information about the CARES West L.A. VA conundrum may be made easier by a March 27 letter to VA Secretary Nicholson from the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform. The letter, signed by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), and Waxman, the ranking minority whip, requests the contract between the VA and PricewaterhouseCoopers and a whole slew of documents related to the CARES process at the West L.A. VA.

The letter also posed questions about who excavated the radioactive material from the Brentwood School athletic fields and where was it disposed.

The advent of the CARES initiative has community residents and activists taking another hard look at the VA’s disturbing record of radioactive dumping.

“Given this unsettling history, why would anyone in their right mind want to ignore this dump and believe anything the VA has to say about it?” says Ramberg. “When the Ahmanson Ranch development crashed in 2003 over concerns that neighboring Rocketdyne had polluted it with radiological and chemical contamination, the developer Washington Mutual had to walk away. It just doesn’t pay to develop ‘hot’ property. But it might pay to properly test the place to see how extensive the problem is.”

Next week: The animal and human radiation experiments at the VA and UCLA that helped fill the Brentwood nuclear dump.

Michael Collins is a frequent contributor to CityBeat. For comprehensive information, documents, and photographs on the Brentwood dump, see his website EnviroReporter.com.

Exclusive 2019 Update: VICTORY AT THE VA – West LA Veterans Administration master plan protects old nuclear dump from development

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