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Rocketdyne Halts Soil Tests After Report of Allegation Against Contractor

February 19, 1997|MACK REED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — Rocketdyne said Tuesday that it has halted soil vapor testing by an environmental contractor at the controversial Santa Susana Field Laboratory after The Times reported that the contractor was accused by Los Angeles water officials of falsifying test records.

Transglobal Environmental Geochemistry (TEG) has been scanning part of Rocketdyne's 2,668-acre mountaintop research site near Simi Valley for traces of spilled toxins since November.

But Rocketdyne halted the work this week because the aerospace firm wants to look into the published allegations detailing internal strife at the Regional Water Quality Control Board, said Lori Circle, a Rocketdyne spokeswoman.

A 1995 water board memo said that one of TEG's owners admitted fabricating instrument checks needed to verify the accuracy of test results at a Los Angeles site.

TEG co-owner Blayne Hartman steadfastly denied the allegations and pointed out that his firm remains on the list of laboratories approved for use by the water board.

"Rocketdyne has to make decisions they have to make," Hartman said Tuesday in an interview. "If they tell us not to come to work, that's what we'll have to do.

"We've been very careful with the analyses we've done out there, and they will fulfill or satisfy the requirements we're supposed to fulfill," he added. "The data we've been collecting are good data."

But Circle of Rocketdyne said her company was "very concerned to learn that the integrity of one of our subcontractors has been questioned.

"We always try to get the best people and expertise we can to do the job," she said. "We've put on hold further sampling. . . . We're investigating to ensure they've met all their requirements and followed all the proper procedures."

TEG, based in San Diego County, is taking 320 soil vapor samples and testing them for traces of toxic solvents that were spilled through decades of research on rocket engines and nuclear energy at Rocketdyne.

By Monday, the tests were almost finished, Circle said. The results were to be used to pinpoint areas where more stringent soil and water tests might be needed.

But in light of the allegations, Rocketdyne plans to hire a second chemical analyst to resample areas of the 120-acre testing zone where TEG's soil vapor tests found no trace of toxic solvents, Circle said.

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