Notre Dame Professor tells City Council ‘children will die’ if housing is built in East Pasadena at the site of a former U.S. Navy weapons research facility; Mayor, State agency disagree
Published : Monday, August 26, 2019 | 5:14 AM
Claiming that the California Department of Toxic Substances wants to only “partially” clean up the dangerous chemicals at a former weapons testing site in East Pasadena, a longtime critic told the City Council last week that building a mixed-use development containing housing at the Space Bank Mini-Storage location could have deadly consequences.
Environmental scientist Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette, the O’Neill Endowed Professor at Notre Dame University, compared the site to the town of Franklin, Indiana, which, she said, contained a toxic waste site similar to Pasadena’s controversial Space Bank site at 3200 East Foothill Boulevard.
According to published reports, more than 50 children in Franklin have developed rare blood and brain cancers.
But the Department of Toxic Substances reacted by saying its recently approved final remediation plan for the East Pasadena development has been expanded over a previous draft and will now test for the presence of additional dangerous chemicals on the site.
According to a Department representative, “out of an abundance of caution,” the DTSC is also testing for the additional chemicals TNT, RDX, and PFAS, and their degraded derivatives. This, the spokesperson said, is being done because of the concerns about those chemicals expressed by a number of community members during the project’s public comments.
Mayor Terry Tornek, taking issue with Shrader-Frechette’s analysis, said Friday, “I think that her comments are extremely inflammatory. I went through the 200-page response from DTSC. I am not an environmental scientist, but I felt that their comments were very comprehensive.”
In her comments before the City Council, Shrader-Frechette referred to the alleged effects on a community of a partial remediation of a toxic site over which housing was built.
She cited a July 2018 article in the Indianapolis Star that said after the homes were built an environmental engineering firm tested the air of 14 homes within a roughly 5-mile radius of the former Amphenol Corporation facility, known to have been a major polluter in the area.
According to the article, six homes had radon levels that exceeded the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Residential Indoor Air Screening Level, while three homes exceeded the levels for volatile organic compounds such as tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene, known as PCEs and TCEs, respectively.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies, these hazardous substances are known to be carcinogenic — or cancer-causing — to humans, the Star reported.
“Because the Franklin site was only partially cleaned up,” said Shrader-Frechette, “there are now 59 children who have cancer. Completely predictable cancers, and many of those children have already died.”
Shrader-Frechette said the toxins in Franklin were about 50 times above the EPA-recommended protection level. She claimed the toxic cleanup level approved by the Pasadena City Council and by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control for the Spacebank site is ten times greater than the limit of the Franklin site.
“Do the math,” she urged.
“That should not be allowed,” said Shrader-Frechette. “Children will die. I expect to be testifying in court to help protect all the people who are hurt, if people make wrong decisions.”
DTSC spokesman Russ Edmonson confirmed two weeks ago that the cleanup plan for the parcel at 3200 Foothill Boulevard, where the large mixed-use development is planned, has been finalized and approved.
Gamaliel Ortiz, spokesperson for DSTC, would not comment about the Indiana site, but said Friday, “The planned removal action at [the Spacebank] site is a complete cleanup. The main objective is to remove contaminated soil so the site can be redeveloped into a commercial-residential development. Contaminated storm drain, seepage pits and soil will be excavated, removed, and disposed of. Complete removal of impacted soil and infrastructure will be confirmed by post-removal sampling.”
“If any of these are found at the site,” said Ortiz, “DTSC will address them as part of our complete cleanup plan.”
The agency’s DTSC’s removal action workplan is designed to remove identified environmental risks for the intended land use, be protective of human health during cleanup, and to ensure public safety. The removal action will be performed to current state cleanup standards required for the intended and unrestricted land use, which in this case is residential.”
Ortiz added that a confirmatory soil sampling, a post-removal action soil gas survey, and a human health risk assessment, will be conducted to confirm that the site is acceptable for the planned residential use.
“The removal action plan was developed with DTSC policy and follows California Health and Safety Code to protect Californians and the environment,” explained Ortiz. “Cleanup will be performed using applicable standards determined by DTSC, US EPA and San Francisco Bay Regional Water Control Board.”
The DTSC removal action will be performed with the oversight of DTSC and in accordance with federal and state safety regulations, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board regulations, Ortiz also noted.
Tornek also noted that Alta Consulting, the city’s hired consulting agency, is currently developing its own response.
“Before I reach a conclusion, I prefer to wait and see what Alta has to say,” said Tornek.
In their March 2019 newsletter, the DTSC explained that the cleanup plan would include the following phases: Excavation, removal and disposal of contaminated soil and storm drain features; a soil gas survey, and a groundwater investigation.
Approximately 1000 to 1200 feet of clay or concrete pipe from the storm drain system will be excavated along with associated storm drain inlets, catch basins, seven stormwater seepage pits and four locations with elevated levels of either; VOCs, petroleum hydrocarbons, or metals contamination (mercury, lead and arsenic.), said the report
In addition, the DTSC explained that all excavations would be followed by confirmatory soil sampling to ensure that the contaminants are removed.
Approximately 330 cubic yards of contaminated soil will be transported and disposed of at licensed facilities. After the removal of identified impacted soil and debris, a soil gas survey will be implemented to provide additional information about any residual volatile organic compounds remaining in the soil. Additional excavation to remove contaminated soil may be performed to eliminate risk from volatile organic compounds vapors.
A groundwater monitoring program will follow with the installation of groundwater wells and groundwater sampling.
The site, which abuts the 210 Freeway, has been occupied by the Space Bank Mini Storage Facility since 1978. Prior to that, it was owned by the U.S. Navy as the Naval Information Research Foundation Undersea Center, beginning in the late 1940s. The U.S. Navy vacated the site in 1974 and Space Bank moved in.
The project has been controversial from the outset because of its prior uses which include munitions research, light and heavy industrial processes.
The 8.2 acre main project site is on the south side of East Foothill Boulevard, between North Kinneloa Avenue and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue in East Pasadena. The site has been occupied by the Space Bank Mini Storage Facility since 1978 and, according to the staff report, was owned and operated by the US Navy as the Naval Information Research Foundation (NIRF) Undersea Center, beginning in the late 1940′s through the late 1970′s.
Historical use of the project site for research, testing, and assembly of torpedoes and other weapon systems has generated the presence of hazardous materials in soil and soil vapor, and potentially in groundwater beneath the property, according to a City Council staff report.