By design. Many of the local interest groups are funded by the polluters, and coincidentally are working to undermine the need for cleanup by issuing statements that it’s not needed, fake news, or because “someone is making money on it.”  It leads us to the question of how we can combat the “bubble” syndrome where we tend to listen to the information that most closely matches what we want to believe. When polluters such as the Department of Energy use these tactics by paying local residents to bully and discredit their own neighbors in favor of denial, “It takes the fear away.” But it doesn’t take the contamination away. I guess that’s the irony of the whole thing.

Well, what about Director Barbara Lee? Why would she issue a letter saying there is no contamination, especially now, when her own agency is in the process of cleaning up lead from the drainage that leads to the camp, and some from Santa Susana? It doesn’t make sense, and makes even less sense that the IRP would not be interested in this decision.

Why doesn’t DTSC feel compelled to answer questions regarding this decision?

Instead, they ban communication from people who ask the hard questions, much like the letter saying it’s clean, it doesn’t really do the trick, and certainly does nothing to keep the surrounding communities safer, it just keeps the noise about the problem down. That might be helpful for some, but not for those who have waited decades for the responsible parties to do the right thing.

Not anytime soon.

This is primarily true for Barbara Lee, who should be answering questions about the ten-year agreement that has now passed without the cleanup having begun.

How can they justify spending money on studying airflow while failing the local community, yet again?

One thing is clear: Time is part of the equation to harm, and a whole lot of time has gone by. In speaking to Mr. LeClerc, who leads the cleanup for DTSC, he was unwilling to concede that time was indeed an important part of the risk experienced by surrounding communities.

FINDINGS of contamination beyond buffer zone properties have been confirmed in the USEPA Radiological Survey completed in 2012.

Previous FINDINGS of contamination on buffer zone properties that led to land transfer and designation as “buffer zone.” including an ISEO Immediate Substantial Endangerment Order issued by the agency’s then project director in 2006. There doesn’t seem to be mention of that here.

Letter issued by Barbara Lee to Brandeis
The list of cleanups shown (above, left) shows how much lead has been removed from the drainage leading to Brandeis over the last decade and continues to be removed today.

LINK to their findings and conclusions

When California’s top environmental cop makes declarations of “clean” instead of actual cleanup of toxic sites, we've got a serious problem.

West Hills effort to get a similar letter declaring the area “clean”
DTSC Cleanup History of Brandeis drainage [Northern Drainage] from SSFL including current lead removal

How do we square this?

Why isn’t DTSC doing their cleanup job? and more importantly, why are they insinuating that cleanup is not necessary when they have engaged in an investigation for cleanup of the field lab including the 2006 Immediate and Substantial Endangerment Order issued by Mr. Norman Riley, then project director of the site for DTSC appointed by then Cal EPA Secretary Linda Adams.


Why direct the response from DTSC, to Matt Dababneh, who’s district is neither the field lab nor the posh jewish children’s camp? 

When asked about it, Mr. Dababneh was defensive, claiming that he shouldn’t be blamed and was only asking on behalf of his constituents and donors.

Why wouldn’t Secretary Matthew Rodriquez who heads up California’s Environmental Protection Agency want the response to be sent to the assembly member who’s district was involved” — we have more questions about why this was used to claim that the field lab “wasn’t really contaminated.” instead of limiting the scope of this statement to the camp.

Deadlines have been missed as the deadline set in the 2007 cleanup agreement for ten years in the future — June 30, 2017 which has come and gone without remark from the agency despite the 1 day notice given by DOE for their failure to comply, and there’s been no response at all about assessing penalties according to those set forth in those agreements, intended for the purpose of motivating the polluter to “comply.”

How do the polluters control DTSC?

They pay for the headcount that does the work regulating the process.

They do all the sampling

They hire the labs

They “evaluate” the results

What does DTSC do? 

Issue letters saying a site is clean when the cleanup hasn’t even started. What impact will that have on actually implementing the cleanup that seems so elusive to the public?

Here is the most recent letter issued by the Department of Energy exactly ONE DAY before the deadline of the cleanup that they haven’t started in ten years:

How does this protect the public?

Based on the letter received just one day before the deadline from the Department of Energy, they do not intend on protecting the public at all.

They need to do better. Much better.


When DTSC’s Director Barbara Lee responded to pressure with a ‘declaration of clean’ letter to Brandeis Bardin Institute, (American Jewish University), more pressure started mounting for a “paper cleanup.”

DTSC’s Toxic Favors

For some reason, DTSC is describing the property that transferred ownership as a result of litigation as a "physical barrier", but does not take into account the active contamination problem in the "Northern Drainage" which leads from Santa Susana Field Laboratory's front gate, and down to the camp property. This drainage has been the subject of several cleanups including the ISRA Interim Source Removal Action as a result of persistent water quality violations for outfalls 8 and 9, as well as the 2006 ISEO Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order issued to execute a five year clean up of the northern drainage as a result of contamination found by local residents in the creek that separates Sage Ranch Park from the Santa Susana Field Lab.

Considering the steep grade and the years of violations and cleanups detailed by the very agency denying the problem, it seems unlikely that the solution will be solved with such reluctance to the facts.

Director Barbara Lee answering questions with Joel Grover of NBC.


SIMI VALLEY:  The Director of DTSC issued a letter to Brandeis Bardin Institute claiming that no contamination had left the neighboring nuclear/rocket site via the drainage that connects the properties in the Simi Hills. This came as a surprise to many neighboring residents who remember when parts of BBI became part of Santa Susana Field Laboratory’s “Northern Buffer Zones.” This occurred as a result of litigation that ended with a settlement including transfer of property previously owned by AJU/BBI. The property transfer was a result of off-site contamination found on the camp property which led to a lawsuit among neighbors, the federal government and the Boeing Company.

Oversight of the investigation and cleanup has been contentious at best. While investigation and full reporting have finally taken place, there has been no cleanup. Moreover, there has been no record of a decision as to what that cleanup will look like. This is despite more than a decade having passed since the signing of cleanup agreements between the polluters and the State of California. More than 20 years of public meetings have resulted in little public understanding and more divisive partisanship than we see on the national political stage. Controversy has perpetuated a fact-free environment and created nearly two decades—or generations--of kicking the can down the road. 

Regulatory process in slow-motion to the point of paralysis.

Pressure, litigation, denial, and then, poof!

The “off-site contamination” that was found on Brandeis becomes characterized as no problem because now it is on-site.

“Well, that seems like a shady and completely ineffective way of addressing the problem,” I asked the previous DTSC Director.

“Yes.” This should have been the answer as it was obvious, but instead, there was an extended and very disappointing silence.

Late last year, Brandeis was pleased to announce that there was no contamination and that “all allegations were false,” eagerly posting the letter they received from DTSC agency head, Barbara Lee.

It’s one thing to say the camp is safe or talk about monitoring or limitations to keep campers safe. It’s quite another to use this letter to allege that the Santa Susana Field Laboratory has now been found to be clean. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, yet when looking at the camp website, that’s how it appears.

The technical letter from Laura Rainey was included in the letter to Assemblyman Matt Debabneh. According to Director Lee, she was instructed by CalEPA Secretary Matthew Rodriquez to address a response to Mr. Debabneh, despite both the field lab and the camp being in other districts. #unusual

What is the purpose of the letter and the request for a “clean status” when a cleanup agreement was signed with the State of California ten years ago, and no cleanup has yet taken place?

Other regulatory issues for DTSC

In 2014, Senate Bill 83 created the Independent Review Panel, which, among other things, was supposed to look into the $172 million provided to the agency for lead cleanup at the Exide facility in South Central Los Angeles. Ten thousand homes are in need of lead cleanup, while pressures mount from the cushy, upscale next-door USC apartment developments to find no problem and thus no cleanup. This has been a multi-decade battle to get the former battery recycling plant to control emissions and discharges to the surrounding communities. They are also largely waiting for cleanup to start, but for different reasons.

“$172 million is a lot of dollars, and we want to make sure it’s being handled appropriately and in the interest of the vulnerable children (or ‘receptors’ as DTSC tends to refer to them). It seems like public meetings are being used to scare the vulnerable residents back into the shadows instead of providing the public outreach needed to educate and protect vulnerable populations.

“How many people do you have living in the residence?” was a very effective question designed to scare people from attending the meeting, rather than becoming informed. The other disturbing factor, given the fact that hundreds of thousands of tons of lead had been discharged to the neighborhoods, was DTSC’s focus on potential chipped paint, which would not be the responsibility of Exide.

In communities surrounding Santa Susana Field Lab where the local neighborhood has a higher median income, the strategy is to use fear about loss of home value rather than fear based on potential vulnerabilities of the residents themselves, such as immigration status.

On the CAG [Community Advisory Group created by DTSC] website, the Brandeis letter was used to confirm that the discussion about contamination of the field lab was false.

Despite questions about DTSC’s refusal to regulate the group created by the agency, the group seems to undermine the legitimacy of the cleanup agreements, or need for cleanup, as evidenced by nearly every agenda since the group’s inception in 2013.

Alec Uzemeck, who heads the CAG, funded by the Department of Energy, held several community meetings focused on getting a similar letter for West Hills and for Chatsworth to assist on the push-back against cleanup of the site. [Recording of public meeting statements about seeking letter.] The CAG, funded by the Department of Energy has had a staunch “reduce cleanup” and even denial stance with regard to the contamination remaining at the site, indicating that the harm to their home-values based on this stigma was more severe than any potential illnesses would be for local residents.

“This was very troubling, considering that they refused to allow information about a local cluster of pediatric cancer to be shown or discussed by the committee. Instead, they voted to request the least protective cleanup with every meeting being focused on how to help the polluters get out of cleanup. How do you ask for a letter saying it’s clean, while refusing to hear from all these parents whose children have these rare cancers?” It just doesn’t make sense. I mean, how do you look a mom in the eyes who is telling you about her child’s multiple rounds of chemo before even learning to read? The effect of greed on the perspective of public safety is deadly.

When asked about why this exchange of “declaration of clean” letters was happening, i.e., is it their role to issue letters that contradict their own agency data, and what might be offered in exchange for such a letter, the IRP’s Mike Singh said, “send me an email.”  We’ve sent several emails, and nothing has happened, no responses have occurred, and most importantly, no clarification as to why DTSC would issue such a letter prior to the cleanup in the first place. For months, the IRP has refused to address this ongoing question. If DTSC issues letters state that everything is clean, what would be the need for cleanup?

If no requests about this issue ever get past the person answering the phone, how is this tax-payer funded group operating?

No answer.

From Alec’s point of view, his neighbors and he have been harmed by the disclosure that people sign when they buy a house in the area, and he is also working to have that removed. Others might argue that the people harmed by cancer and other illnesses resulting from the toxic waste being burned at the site [a cost-saving measure] might be worse and should at least be considered and acknowledged. How is that possible when the polluter only denies, denies, denies and utilizes local neighbors to attack concerned residents and undermine their concerns? At the most recent committee meeting, they even assigned a well-known and self-proclaimed “meltdown denier” to gather information about the children “claiming” to have cancer. And yes, they did insinuate that  these cases were fake.

One important question remains.  No matter how you feel about cleanup levels, if all the warnings are removed and a “clean bill of health” is issued by DTSC without a cleanup taking place, how will future residents know that there might even be a problem, especially when they continue to have violations from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, most recently to the tune of half a million dollars? While that isn’t much in “Boeing money,” it is meaningful because they have shareholders.

So what does this letter mean?

By itself, not very much. But when we look at the context and timing as it relates to the negative coverage the camp [BBI] received as a result of Joel Grover’s coverage of the contamination discovered last year in recent testing results, it makes a person wonder.

Additionally, it revealed that DTSC and the responsible parties spent time and money studying and modeling air dispersion and concluded that “no particulates left the property boundary.” This is an astonishing claim, considering the 50 years of discharges that included burning waste in “burn pits” for decades to save costs on waste management.

“Seventy percent of the site burned in the Sesnon Fire as well. We all remember the ash in our pools from that fire, so you cannot say that air particulates don’t travel. It’s just absurd and really even insulting to the intelligence of the local community,” said one resident. “I mean, we all saw the level of ash in our pools from the fire, how do you explain that if air particulates don’t travel?”

It seems more and more obvious that many are easily swayed by arguments that support the “nothing wrong here” hypothesis, which is more comforting to neighbors who have lived next to the site for decades. “The horse has left the barn, as it were,” another West Hills neighbor said. “It certainly feels better to listen to the people that say there’s nothing wrong and everything is fine.”