Quality of Swarthmore Dirt Questioned

By Sue Pascoe

Potrero Canyon rim resident Lora Fremont is questioning the quality of the dirt slated to be used for fill in the completion of Potrero Canyon Park. She has reached out to state and city officials with her concerns.

On Oct. 4, the L.A. City Board of Building and Safety commissioners approved the dirt that will be excavated from the former parking lot off Swarthmore, in order for Caruso Affiliated to construct a three-story underground parking garage. This dirt will be hauled to Potrero, either via Chautauqua or Temescal Canyon Road.

The city estimates it will save $3 million by using the 122,000 cubic yards of Swarthmore dirt in the canyon, while allowing the park below the Palisades Recreation Center to be completed sooner.

The dirt from this site will be hauled to Potrero Canyon.
The dirt from this site will be hauled to Potrero Canyon.

When this exchange was announced in early September, the News contacted the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and asked project manager Jose Diaz if the dirt had been tested for contamination. He said that Caruso Affiliated had hired Pasadena-based Tetra Tech, which gave the soil a good report. Diaz was asked if any outside testing would be done. He replied that generally if the company’s reputation is good (tetratech.com), no additional testing is done by the state. According to Tetra Tech’s website, in 2014 Engineering News-Record ranked the company number one in water, solid waste and environmental management.

The soil tested was under the previous parking lot, a triangular area framed by Swarthmore, Monument and the alley north of Sunset Boulevard.

Diaz explained that the dirt under the former Emerson/LaMay Cleaners on Swarthmore was contaminated and had already been sent to waste management facilities and treated.

“The dirt under the Mobil station and the cleaners is not being used,” Diaz told the News in a telephone conversation. After reading the News article “Caruso Dirt Most Likely to Fill Potrero,” Fremont alerted the News that Tetra Tech had been accused of falsifying the soil reports for a Santa Susana project.

As reported on the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition website, “NBC4 broadcast a new segment on May 4, 2016, in its ongoing ‘LA’s Nuclear Secret’ investigation of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory that examines a new study commissioned by American Jewish University which asserts its Brandeis-Bardin Institute property is not impacted by SSFL contamination.

“However, the company that performed the study took only 16 samples for the entire 2,878-acre site. That company, Tetra Tech, is also under investigation after Tetra Tech employees told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that they’d been ordered to falsify soil samples at the Hunters Point former nuclear test site in San Francisco.”

Fremont is also questioning Councilman Mike Bonin’s office about the notice that was sent out about the city’s Oct. 4 hearing, which stated that the address of the project was 15101 Pacific Coast Highway.

That notice stated in part, “At the public hearing the Board will be considering views of concerned parties regarding the proposed hauling operations and environmental re- view under the California Environmental Quality Act.”

Fremont asked, “Why was this not identified as Potrero Canyon? Why did the notice not identify what this 122,000 cubic yards of earth was? Why were residents given such short notice of the hearing? After the hearing and this passed, why were residents not notified that they had 10 days to register written complaints?” And finally, “Why such a cryptic notice, and why is this being pushed through so quickly? It only fuels our concern.”

The News received the notice on Friday, Sept. 30, that the hearing was scheduled for the following Tuesday, the day after Rosh Hashanah.

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