GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

[HexWatch 2011] Q: What Is The Difference Between "Legal" and "Moral?"

A: Is it one man's life?
Or perhaps the life and future well-being of family and friends who love him?
This photo was taken last Thursday at Headworks. See that little man out in the middle of those tractors and trucks? He is a living example, the difference, between what is legal and what is moral.
Even as PHG (Public Health Goals) and MCL (Maximum Contaminant Levels) thresholds for Chromium 6 in California are ostensibly going down to about 20% of what they used to "legally" be;
Even as Disney has "legally" stonewalled USEPA for years over what they added to the clean water pulled from underground wells to protect the pipes in their air cooling system;
Even as LADWP sits on a "legal" Cr VI assessment for future Headworks Park visitors and maintenance workers while somehow completely failing to assess the present Cr VI cancer risk of workers in the field for 40 hours a week until the year 2017...;
Even as the mayor's office, L.A. City Council's Energy & Environment Committee and the local union have all been notified, testified to, linked to....
There has been not one response.
"What's the difference?" you might ask. "There's no need to respond. It's all legal."
And you're right. Legally, nobody has to tell the man in the picture wearing a tee-shirt that he should be wearing a hazmat suit to protect his lungs from Cr VI inhalation and his skin from dermal absorption. Legally, no one has to warn him that continual Cr VI exposure can lead not only to skin rashes and eye irritation on a daily basis, but the ever-increasing possibility of infertility, cancer and his internal organs simply shutting down at some future date. Nobody has to tell him that Chromium 6 is one helluva dangerous chemical.
And we can be fairly certain that nobody has.
From LADWP to Disney to City of L.A.; all is quiet, all is legal -- for now. Nobody has to say anything, so they don't.
And when everything is legal, our community safely becomes indifferent.
That's the difference between what is moral and what is legal.

Monday, July 25, 2011

[HexWatch 2011] The Sign Over Tunnel 7

There is no fence that prevents you from walking through Tunnel 7 to the excavation area of Headworks. Take a walk or ride your horse through the tunnel and you can watch LADWP workers digging up and moving tons of soil contaminated by Chromium VI all day if you like. Of course, there is a sign that warns of noise from heavy machinery -- that might scare the horses. And there is a sign that warns day hikers and equestrians not to bring too much weight on the bridge as they cross. I saw a No Smoking sign. That was helpful. But I saw no sign warning of any environmental hazard in the area or any mention of Cr VI.
Interestingly enough, as I came back out through Tunnel 7, something did catch my eye. Somehow, I had missed it on my way in.
A humble memorial plaque smack dab center over the tunnel entrance:
Whether this gentleman's middle name began with a "Y" or an "E," we may never know.
But at least I found my warning sign at the entrance to Tunnel 7 on the way to Headworks.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

[HexWatch 2011] The Glove Fits. Disney Admits. A Bit.

Way back in late October 2009, after a judge denied Disney's motion to dismiss the Chromium 6 lawsuit by EWW, Disney officials went on record and continued to deny all charges levied by the suit. Disney spokesman, Jonathan Friedland went so far as to claim that Disney has "not used Chromium 6" on its property -- which is a big statement and, to a reasonable person, pretty much means Disney "never" used Chromium 6 on its property...
USEPA, already aware of Chromium 6/Disney allegations from a 1991 inquiry and not in the habit of accepting the word of Disney PR guys and lawyers as gospel, opened its own investigation.
Now, if I may defend Disney for a moment, EVERYBODY sues them and if someone told me that half of Disney's "cast members" were lawyers, I'd believe it. Being a lawyer for Disney has to be like cleaning up after the elephants in the center ring of a circus. As soon as you get all the big shit put away, somebody sends out a parade of camels....
Anyway, due to the large number of suits filed against them, Disney is in the habit of "deny and delay until they go away." If you're suing us because we have big pockets, we'll wait you out until yours are empty. Even interoffice memos at LADWP referred to Disney as being uncooperative with USEPA.
Of course, nobody has pockets like Uncle Sam (deep and empty, wink wink) and eventually USEPA got fed up with Disney's behavior and sent this 30-day demand letter to Disney President Robert Iger.
DID Disney respond after 30 days? Yes, they did. After months, if not years, of stonewalling, they provided an interesting chronology as the tip of the iceberg:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July 10, 2012 Trial Date Set For Disney Chromium 6 Civil Suit

(Okay, so it won't be Judge Judy presiding, but I'm getting a little loopy going through all these court docs.... Highlight Below: Both parties agree on last day for out of court settlement.)
ORDER GRANTING JOINT STIPULATION AND REQUEST FOR RELIEF FROM SCHEDULING ORDER by Judge Dolly M. Gee 75 . The Amended Scheduling and Case Management Order of July 13, 2010. [Doc. # 59] is hereby modified as follows: Scheduling Event Modified Schedule Fact (non-expert) discovery cut-off November 21, 2011. Last day to exchange expert witness reports December 16, 2011. Last day to exchange rebuttal witness reports January 27, 2012. Last day to complete expert discovery March 9, 2012. Last day to file dispositive motions March 13, 2012. Last day to complete settlement conference February 28, 2012. Last day to file motions in limine May 17, 2012. Last day to file oppositions to motions in limine May 24, 2012. Final Pre-Trial Conference June 12, 2012 @ 2:00 p.m. Jury Trial July 10, 2012 @ 8:30 a.m. The above-captioned matter is set for a telephonic status conference with the Court on July 25, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. SEE ORDER.
(Thinking Aloud: IF the case actually goes to trial and IF Disney is actually found liable for discharging Chromium 6 into the streets of Burbank and/or Headworks, could LADWP eventually be held liable for 60 years of negligence?)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

[HexWatch 2011] Old Yardstick/New Tricks

Dateline: November 10, 2010 -- LADWP, after halting the excavation and siting of its 100-million gallon water tanks for an extended length of time in an area known as The Headworks, receives a re-assessment report of the project's exposure risks for Chromium VI...
The language is uhm, not-so-clear. But the idea is fairly obvious;
If you build restroom facilities in the new Headworks Park (yes, when in doubt, plant some trees and put a park on top of it....), make sure you particularly avoid two Cr VI hotspots, because if any repairs are needed on the underground plumbing of those new restrooms, maintenance workers will be exposed to dangerous levels of Chromium VI.
"Wow," you say, "but doesn't Chromium VI always degrade to the safer Chromium III over time? Eventually it will be safe, right?"
(Shakes head, wags finger) In this case, maybe not...
But that's another story to be told. It takes place over a 60-year period and it's called "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Spreading Grounds." It is the cause of much consternation between The Walt Disney Company, a whole bunch of lawyers, US EPA, CAL EPA, a regional water board, a trio of municipal utilities and, quite possibly, a singing Chihuahua looking for love in all the wrong places.
But I digress.
Today's story is called "Old Yardstick/New Tricks." It's an epic suspense/adventure about how a municipal utility found the courage to leap forward with a water project in a chemically hazardous area before new, stiffer health and environmental regulations become the law of the land and sabotage the entire thing.
Here's how it goes:
Somewhere Around February 2010
A report is commissioned by LADWP upon discovery that they have eyebrow-raising soil contamination numbers for deadly Chromium VI at their Headworks property where they have just begun excavation to install 100-million gallon tanks for drinking water storage. Work is halted. No official or public mention of Cr VI contamination is made.
November 2010
The report comes back to LADWP. Using the broadest currently accepted state screening levels and pre-2010 USEPA levels for Cr VI, it's called "Risk Assessment of the Potential Future Use of the Headworks Spreading Ground as a Park Following Installation of New Water Storage Tanks" and, like that title says, it assesses future use of Headworks as a park for humans to recreate, fully cognizant of the fact that very high levels of Cr VI are presently in soil samples in two specific areas and that seven of 18 water wells in the area were contaminated with Cr VI. The report also suggests that, if children use the "future" park, they should only visit once per week when school is not in session and one 2.7 hour visit once every other week when school IS in session to avoid higher than normal cancer risks. Piece o' cake. Kids are always good with rules. Especially when they're not posted anywhere.
December 2010
Environmental Working Group (EWG) comes out with a report on Cr VI levels in U.S. drinking water that receives a surprising amount of national attention. In the survey, a sample taken from a water fountain in an area adjacent to Griffith Park comes out rather high (MCL = Maximum Contamination Level). Courtesy of the EWG, all hell then breaks loose. Feinstein and Boxer jump in, calling for USEPA to get a handle on the MCL (and PHG -- Public Health Goal) for Cr VI immediately. Lisa Jackson, head of USEPA promises swift action.
Sometime In January/February 2011
Timing sucks and things get a little weird for that November Hexworks, uh, Headworks report. Spurred on by irate U.S. Senators and angry thirsty people everywhere, State of California through OEHAA and USEPA are now both taking public comment and advancing toward new improved numbers and regulations with much lower MCLs/PHGs thresholds for Cr VI. The clock is ticking and State of California's higher, older threshold numbers could be out of date sooner than later. LADWP, like it always does with new regs, new renewables mandates (Is it 20%, 33%, 40%, I dunno -- what day is it??) is gonna get screwed. Not only that, but a whole bunch of nasty skeletons are just knockin' on the closet door, ready to fly out, because LADWP has had oversight of The Headworks since 1938 and from then til now, only one company has had permission to recycle its water through Headworks soil: The Walt Disney Company.
And from then til now, LADWP provided little, if any, oversight for six decades.
So, you can imagine the crunchiness of the situation....
And Disney is pissed because USEPA is now forcing them to cooperate with their investigation and just tightened the screws with this letter and a demand that they respond in full within 30 days.
Meanwhile, a Cr VI-related civil lawsuit alleging wrongful death continues its stroll through the court system and even Disney's world-class legal team cannot seem to stop it.
The clock is ticking not only for Disney, but for LADWP.
And LADWP has a decision to make.
"Do we re-start the Headworks project or do we wait for new, lower Cr VI screening levels to be adopted by regulatory agencies which will cost our project even more?" Hmm.
"Do we tell everyone in the world that we took a 60-year nap while Disney dumped tons of Cr VI contaminated water into the Headworks Spreading Ground?" No.
"Do we ignore the mandate from Homeland Security to protect our water from terrorists by installing underground tanks?" We shouldn't. Let's call Eyewitness News.
"Do we have a current assessment of the property for future use that puts us in the clear?" Yes, we do.
"Even though future use wasn't considered with future regulations currently being considered?" Please, let's live in the present.
LADWP's decision?
"Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!"

It is less than half the Cr VI contamination level found by EWG in that Griffith Park drinking fountain a year ago.

More kids shot in Los Angeles City parks

Happened again last night:

Two shot at park during anti-gang program
July 21, 2011 | 9:39 am

And on July 14th, where it only made news because Hollywood stars were on scene:

Actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena witness real drama with LAPD
July 14, 2011

And on June 22nd. And a few other times in between that didn't make the news.

Meanwhile, it takes a full-on task force to convene in the future to address serious, well-known, ongoing operational issues at one of the large Los Angeles parks:

Problems at Harbor City park continue
July 20, 2011

So W-T-F?

The City Charter says that the responsible department is the Department of Recreation and Parks - full stop.

So where exactly has the department who is responsible for these parks been while all of this is going on?

Certainly not engaging in any significant proactive prevention.

Why isn't Recreation and Parks able to handle their parks?

Maybe you should ask your Councilperson and the Mayor that question. After all, they created and approved - unanimously -  a budget that has basically destroyed this department's ability to do much of anything, really.


You can keep on top of emergency calls via the web:  listen to local police and fire radio transmissions here.

The Daily News is reporting that Villaraigosa had planned to show off his "Summer Night Lights " program - the anti-gang program where two kids were shot last night - to the US Conference of Mayors tonight.

We're unable to confirm the exact location of the 911 call for a shooting at Toberman Recreation Center that came in earlier this afternoon. More when we get it.


Venice's Penmar Park Pulled From Consideration For Homeless Parking Program After Double Murder There

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

[HexWatch] The calm before the Cr VI shit-storm

What's that sound?

Why, it's the sound of environmental justice a- comin' down the Chromium VI-tainted track along Headworks, Griffith Park, and the LA River!

It sounds a little distant now, but the freight train of truth is well on its way. When the shit-storm hits, you'll know. As will the numerous corporations, municipalities, and public entities that willfully placed themselves in The Cowcatcher of Justice's path.

You have been hearing it here first, folks.