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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. Weekly reporter 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 . . .  

—David Weisman Non-Fiction Film+Video Production North Hollywood



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.

Today, however, Southern California is relatively flush with water, at least for the short term, and political memories are now focusing on upcoming elections. So I am not surprised with the recent political controversy over the project. Again, Mr. Haefele has done a credible job in laying bare the relative political flip-flopping that is taking place with regard to this project. Kudos to the Weekly for this story.

—John Bednarski Altadena



Michael Baers’ excellent article “Fashion Victims” [May 12–18], exploring the circumstances surrounding the display of the Smithsonian Institution’s sweatshop exhibit at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance, may have left your readers with the incorrect impression that the Los Angeles Jewish Commission on Sweatshops has been dissolved, or that activists within the Jewish community have effectively been thwarted in their efforts to address sweatshop-related issues.

In fact, the Sweatshop Commission remains alive and vibrant. We are proud that the commission is now a program operating under the auspices of the Progressive Jewish Alliance. PJA is a newly created, Los Angeles–based, national-membership organization addressing a variety of social and economic-justice issues.

For more information about the Sweatshop Commission and its ongoing work, or to obtain a copy of the commission’s comprehensive 1999 report addressing sweatshop issues in Los Angeles, please e-mail sweat or call (323) 761-8350. For more about the work of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and its multi-issue agenda, please visit our Web site at www.

—Steven J. Kaplan Chairman, Executive Committee Progressive Jewish Alliance



Thanks to Gary Davis for taking a subject that is already confusing and making it more so. His article “Microsoft Loves You to Death” [May 19–25] strikes me as uninformed at best, and malicious and unfair to Microsoft at its worst. I realize that it’s easy to get anything that vilifies Windows published these days, and I don’t begrudge Davis his paycheck (we all gotta eat), but this one should have been caught by an editor. Or a fact checker. (Does the Weekly even bother with that?)

Just to clear up a couple of things . . .

Number one, claiming that Microsoft has any culpability in the I Love You virus debacle is just silly. That’s like blaming a razor-blade manufacturer for the rising rate of suicide. No one saw this one coming. Period.

Two, the reason your computer automatically runs “obscure” VBS programs is because it’s supposed to. Besides, Visual Basic Script is not obscure. It’s a powerful and popular programming language, particularly among the shareware-development community. Visual Basic scripting performs dozens of useful operations through your e-mail client that you never even notice . . . until it stops doing them. Visual Basic Scripts, like ActiveX controls, Java applets and all the other tools used by virus writers, are useful and valid pieces of software subverted for nefarious purposes.

Three, it is ludicrous to even suggest putting a firewall inside your own computer — especially since, if you run antivirus software, you’ve already got one. Antivirus software didn’t catch the I Love You virus because no one saw it coming (refer back to No. 1). And remember, every scanning, firewall-like program running on your computer takes up system resources and lowers performance. Do we really need another annoying prompt message to slow down our work?

Four, I Love You is far from being the “most destructive virus in the history of computers” . . . Mr. Davis, just because they say it on CNN doesn’t necessarily make it so.

Essentially, we should put the blame where it belongs: on the malicious developer who designed the virus to get through security and ultimately steal passwords off your computer (a fact that was not mentioned by Mr. Davis), and all the careless people who passed it on. This was a criminal act performed for eventual financial gain, not a prank, and not the result of a bug in the VB Scripting host. A burglar found his way in through a window no one expected him to get through. Happens every day.  

—J. Rhodes Los Angeles



I can’t believe Willy Banta dissed all the rock & roll greats who went to that lame-o party just because of their age [Slush, May 19–25]. What an ass! He wonders what Tom Petty’s girlfriend sees in him? Who in Silly Willy’s approved age group has accomplished as much as T.P.? He’s a genius, and a cute one, too! Tom Petty rules; ageism sucks.

—Kate Lennon North Hollywood



Doug Harvey is awesome! Every week I flip open the Weekly to see if he’s contributed, and I’m always pleased by what I read. He writes about the obvious and the obscure in equal parts, and when our views overlap, it happens in a way that actually clouds my boundaries between agreeing with him and being influenced by him, which is very seductive in a writer. There is no attempt at objectivity (so gauche in this day and age) and no regard for local conventional wisdom. Best of all, sometimes he’ll write a positive review for an individual and condemn that individual’s very context — friends, gallery, school, age group, et al.

—Angelica Biddle



Ernest Hardy is a fucking unbelievable writer. D’Angelo, Ang Lee, Ghost Dog, Angie Stone, Mos Def — I sat down today and read them all, and each piece was great. Who says nobody reads on the Web?

—Tommy Tompkins San Francisco


In last week’s Concert Pick of the Week, Iraqi singer Kazem Al Saher’s nationality was incorrectly stated as Lebanese.


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