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Environment & Science

NBC4 investigation questions popular summer camp's contamination study




NBC4's Joel Grover points to the Santa Susana Field Lab from the Sage Ranch Park in the Simi Valley.
NBC4's Joel Grover points to the Santa Susana Field Lab from the Sage Ranch Park in the Simi Valley.
John Rabe/KPCC

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We've been following our media partner NBC4's ongoing investigative series, LA's Nuclear Secret, which has been looking into the effects of fallout and runoff from the secret Santa Susanna Test Lab in Simi Valley.

The latest report, which aired Wednesday night, looks at questions of contamination at a popular kids summer camp, Camp Alonim, run by American Jewish University at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley.

NBC4 and some parents have asked AJU to release all tests they’ve ever done on soil and water on the Brandeis-Bardin property, and the lab reports that go with those tests. It appears AJU officials have released some but not all of the tests. Now AJU is trying to assuage worried parents with a new test.

In a letter to families, American Jewish University (AJU), which owns the camp and paid for the report, said this new study "definitively confirms the safety" of the 2,800 acre campus and finds there is "no unacceptable human health risk" from contamination at the Field Lab. The AJU says as part of the study, "extensive additional testing" was conducted at the camp in February 2016. — NBC4

Experts consulted by KNBC found big problems with the new test, conducted by Pasadena-based Tetra Tech, including: 

NBC4 also refutes AJU's claim that the EPA has OK'd the site:

In a letter to NBC4, the AJU says the number of samples "was done primarily for verification purposes" on "the highest use areas of the site" because "past studies uniformly found the site to be safe" including two done by the U.S. EPA. But EPA spokesperson Margot Perez-Sullivan told NBC4 "we'd never certify an area of land as safe or unsafe." Two other EPA officials told NBC4 the agency has made no such determination about the safety of the entire Brandeis property. — NBC4

Furthermore, a federal investigation found that Tetra Tech faked test results in a study of a nuclear research lab site in San Francisco that was proposed for home development. AJU told NBC4 it didn't know this before hiring Tetra Tech.