Interviewed on air, Loretta Lynch, Former President of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), implied that despite warnings from environmentalists about gas explosion hazards beneath the development, big money behind Playa Vista was determined to make it happen. "It was made clear to me that this development (Playa Vista) was going to happen and that no state agency should stand in the way," Lynch said. There was, "an atmosphere of, we don't want to Grassroots Coalition President, Patricia McPherson, discovered early reports commissioned by the developers that revealed oilfield chemicals in the soil beneath the development, including high levels of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), a neurotoxin that can cause immediate death at high levels and permanent brain damage at chronic low levels.
Florence Gharibian, EPA's Branch Chief of The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), emphasized on-air that, "Some of the oilfield chemicals are known human carcinogens." Gharibian also characterized the City's own safety study of Playa Vista as "incomplete" and emphasized that important information was omitted. She faults engineers for running gas tests in clean soils, trucked in to cover the contamination. "That," she said, "would obviously not result in accurate readings."
Walt Merschat, a soil gas consultant who worked for the City, confirmed Gharibian's observations and stated that, "I don't think we were getting correct answers."
Bernard Endres, PhD, an oil & gas expert working with McPherson, told NBC that, "under earthquake conditions, the soil could turn to quicksand creating chimneys of migrating gas coming up directly under the buildings." Endres helped win the lawsuit on behalf of those injured in the explosion and oilfield gas fires of the 1985 Ross Dress For Less catastrophe.
Endres has asserted for the past fifteen years that the Playa Vista site is unique, unlike any site in the area: "the danger of explosion from oil field gas migrating up some 300 abandoned and operating oil wells combined with liquefiable soils, high water tables, seismic activity and Playa Vista's close proximity to the Southern California Gas Company's oilfield gas storage operations creates a recipe for disaster."
When approached by NBC the City declined comment. Sempra Energy's Southern California Gas Company and Playa Capital LLC, after initially agreeing to do on-camera interviews, gave written responses. Playa Capital LLC responded with a personal attack against McPherson and gave a general statement that the City's safety study was accurate. Southern California Gas Company remarked that none of their storage gas was leaking onto Playa Vista and that, "the storage field remains safe and secure."
Contrary to Southern California Gas Company's and Playa Capital's written response to NBC, Moyer disclosed a recent California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Report obtained by Grassroots that characterized the gas situation at Playa Vista as "a major concern." Most importantly, the report discusses the high probability that storage gas is surfacing in other neighborhoods overlying the Southern California Gas Company storage reservoir area and recommends that the CPUC Safety Branch do a comprehensive study of the reservoir to assess public safety.
Revealing serious malfunctions of safety measures, McPherson and Endres took the NBC crew into an underground parking garage at Playa Vista to document combustible gas moving up through pores in the concrete floor. According to Endres, observing combustible gas bubbling up through water on the garage floor indicates that, "the membrane system that was designed to keep the gas from moving upward, has totally failed." In other words, people living above this parking structure may not be safe.
McPherson and Endres then took the NBC crew to new gas leaks alongside Playa Vista buildings and to an extremely high volume, high pressure gas leak bubbling up through 8 feet of water in the marsh area across Lincoln Blvd. To underscore the highly unpredictable nature of the Playa Vista site, McPherson ignited a gas sample taken in a plastic bag, which flared like a blowtorch.
The City's own experts state on-air that key safety measures don't work. Regarding experimental 50' vent wells, created to outgas the underlying aquifer, the Building & Safety Department's representative states, "the series of 50' vent wells will not work properly in a high water table or in clayey soils or sands which will clog the vent wells."
"Investigation and public hearings should be undertaken immediately to end the controversy over what lies under Playa Vista and to determine what safety measures have and haven't been put into place and what does and doesn't work," says McPherson.
Developers (Playa Capital LLC) of Playa Vista, one of the most ambitious, high-density real estate developments in the country, effectively lobbied the City of Los Angeles and State Legislators for millions of dollars of Mello-Roos and CDLAC tax free bonds to build on top of one of the largest oilfield gas seeps in the world. "It may turn out that millions of dollars of Mello-Roos bonds and CDLAC bonds were improperly issued," stated Jeanette Vosburg, Grassroots Coalition Director of Outreach.
Grassroots is currently engaged in an Appeal for a Subsequent Environmental Impact Review (SEIR) for Phase 1 of Playa Vista and is engaged in evidentiary hearings at the CPUC.
CONTACT: Grassroots Coalition Patricia McPherson or Jeanette Vosburg, 310-721-3512