By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Send letters to the editor to: L.A. Weekly, P.O. Box 4315, L.A., CA 90078. Or fax us at (323) 465-3220. Or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters, which must be typewritten and include a daytime telephone number for verification, may be edited for purposes of space or clarity.
We were appalled at Michael Collins’ recent article “Living Next to a War Factory,” published in the L.A. Weekly (May 5–11), and at the similar article by him published in the O.C. Weekly (May 19–25) entitled “Russians, Rockets and Our Very Own Santa Ana River.” Both were biased and full of inaccuracies and unfounded speculation. This type of sensationalism only serves to fuel fear, misunderstanding and mistrust in local communities, and, unfortunately, incites all-too-popular litigative actions that impede and ultimately threaten environmental cleanup projects.
While the damage has been done, we would like the opportunity to at least provide an accurate accounting of the Aerojet Chino Hills site, based on historical, scientific and technical facts. These facts, if you had taken the time to check, are available for review in public repositories located at the Chino Hills public library and at the office of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in Cypress.
Aerojet, a subsidiary of GenCorp, owned and operated facilities in Chino Hills from 1954 to 1995. Aerojet owns 400 acres of the property, and leased another 400 acres of adjacent land to use as a buffer zone between the property and the city of Chino Hills. The facility was used to load, assemble and test munitions for the U.S. government. There are no secrets surrounding the facility, or the operations that were conducted. In fact, Aerojet’s efforts helped to protect the men and women in uniform who serve this country in times of war and adversity.
The munitions handled at the site primarily involved 25- and 30-millimeter explosive field artillery. Penetrators capable of piercing armor and containing depleted uranium were also assembled and tested, as well as canisters containing tear gas. Other small quantities of chemical agents were tested, but only in contained laboratory settings. Collins takes unfair liberty in describing these operations as “producing a galaxy of bombs and munitions.” His reference to claims that these operations resulted in “chemicals and radioactive poisons oozing from the site” is entirely false and contradicts the scientific and technical findings by regulatory agencies and Aerojet after thorough investigation of the site.
Most important, all investigations and risk assessments conducted at the site under DTSC and Department of Health oversight have concluded that:
1) No harmful levels of chemicals are present in surface waters.
2) No harmful levels of chemicals are outside of, or migrating from, facility boundaries.
3) Chemicals found do not pose a risk to humans, or to the ecological habitat.
We understand concerns by local citizens regarding the need for our company and all companies to protect health and safety in every operation. This has been and will continue to be our priority and our commitment. However, we take exception to the fact that malicious allegations have been printed with total disregard to factual technical data that have been documented and are publicly available. While this may sell newspapers, it is not responsible journalism.
The answer to the only question L.A.Weekly has posed to Aerojet — Do we intend to clean up Chino Hills? — goes unchanged: Yes. We have responded and will continue to respond responsibly. And we are making excellent progress.
—Rosemary Younts Senior Vice President Communications GenCorp
In 1998, L.A. Weeklyreporter Michael Collins’ coverage of the debacle involving Rocketdyne Corp. and the contamination of Simi Valley that resulted from that corporation’s environmental carelessness provided the initial impetus for my video documentary on worker safety and public health. I was able to track down the sources quoted in his articles, and had them recount on camera both the emotional and scientific aspects of this Cold War legacy. (Rocketdyne, I might add, never consented to participate in the video.)
Now Mr. Collins is bringing us a similar tale at Aerojet, or “Rocketdyne East,” as one of his sources conveniently labels the problem. Mr. Collins is able to see through the smoke screens of “national security interests” and “the race for space” that portray these scientific endeavors as harmless, sterile, “clean” high-tech industries. After all, such “white lab coat” operations couldn’t possibly be as polluting and dirty as the more obvious perpetrators: oil refineries, strip mines or paper mills.
But they are. Ask the residents of Silicon Valley, whose ground-water aquifers have been irreparably damaged by the very industries on which their prosperity relies. And now we know this threat faces the residents of Chino Hills. On the basis of Mr. Collins’ reporting, it may be time to get out the cameras and begin rolling videotape again . . .
Thanks for Marc B. Haefele’s up-front story “Daily Drips” [May 19–25], and shame on Joel Wachs for his recent criticism of the East Valley Water Recycling Project. Ten years ago, I was an employee of the L.A. Department of Water and Power and participated in the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report and subsequent public meetings that were held for the East Valley Reclamation Project. As you may recall, in the late 1980s Southern California was experiencing a drought of gigantic proportions. All the politicos and others in the water industry were touting projects like the East Valley Reclamation Project as the way for the city of L.A. to become “drought-proof.” Needless to say, there was little objection from Mr. Wachs or others in City Hall.
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