Phone conversations and emails are between Harvey Liss and Dot Lofstrom, Division Chief, CA DTSC, in the Sacramento office of Director Barbara Lee, unless otherwise indicated.
Aug 31: Larry Agran emailed a letter to Governor Brown relating the lack of testing for petrochemicals on the under-construction Portola High School site, and copied to other officials.
Sept 1: Rana Georges, DTSC, Cypress Regional Office, acknowledges receipt and says she will share it with management. No further response from her office.
Oct 26: Response to Larry Agran’s letter to Gov. Brown arrives from Division Chief Dot Lofstrom, office of DTSC Director Barbara Lee. This letter is filled with misinformation and has content similar to a previous communication that came directly from the DTSC Cypress office.
Nov 6: Emails written on “Test for Toxics” letterhead, were sent by Harvey to DTSC Director Barbara Lee and CA EPA Agency Secretary Matthew Rodriquez.” The letter outlined the contamination issue at the Portola H.S. site, including supporting documents, asking them to intervene, and asking to meet with them.
Nov 6: Email sent to Dot Lofstrom refuting the extensive misinformation in her letter, and attaching supporting documents to prove that the school site was mischaracterized as agricultural, and should be tested for petrochemicals [Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)].
Nov 6: Dot immediately responds and writes that she will review the documents carefully in the next week.
Nov 18: Email sent to Dot Lofstrom asking for status of her review and asking in view of the evidence presented if it would be prudent to test the interior of the school site for VOCs.
Nov 18: Dot immediately responded by email, as follows:
… We are currently compiling the information you provided with the intent of completing an open minded analysis of it. Because of the limited time available in November, that will take us through early December. Sometime in December, the technical team and I will meet with Director Lee and we will discuss your concerns. Afterwards, I will reach out to you again, either through a formal letter or though this medium. Feel free to contact me any time for an update.
Nov 29: Email to Dot with copy of condensed version of contamination issue that was sent to Director Barbara Lee and Secretary Matthew Rodriquez.
Dec 1: Email to Dot Lofstrom with December issue of the Irvine Community News & Views (ICNV).
Dec 4: Email to Dot Lofstrom explaining some history of the Portola High School project emphasizing that the DTSC was misled by being provided censored information and also misinformation throughout the process.
Dec 8: I called Dot’s office number and left a friendly message, asking her to call me back on my cell phone.
Dec 14: I called Dot’s cell phone number at 4pm, and she answered. Following is the conversation:
Harvey: “Hi Dot, This is Harvey Liss. I hope you had a chance to read the positive article about your response to our Portola High School contamination issue in our local newspaper that I mailed to you on Friday. You should have received it today.”
Dot: She said she read the article in the Dec issue of the ICN&V and was “unnerved” by it, even though I mentioned that it was a positive article. She said she had no further comment about the article.
Harvey: “Our newspaper is getting more and more comments from residents, about 500 now, on their unease with the lack of comprehensive testing of the high school site—about 50 indicating they will refuse to send their kids or grandkids to the new high school until the site is fully tested.”
Dot: She said she understands that and made a comment of concern when i mentioned that parents would refuse to send their kids to the school unles the site was tested. She said she would pass that information forward.
Harvey: “I was wondering if there is any chance for the DTSC to hold a public hearing in our area to air the contending issues and shed some good light on this issue for the public to understand, and to hear on what basis the Irvine Unified School District objects to testing the site for VOCs, while claiming that it has been tested without mentioning for what.
Dot: She said she that is a possibility and it would have to be called by the DTSC. She said she would also pass that information forward.
She further said that she’s been busy with other projects, although she understands the importance of this one. She didn’t indicate any timetable. She has not yet communicated with Director Lee. I believe the article and my phone call was especially helpful to emphasizing the importance of this project.
Jan 7 (2:25 pm): I called Dot’s cell phone number and left a message:
Harvey: “Hi Dot, This is Harvey Liss. Happy New Year. I just wanted to know if your staff has made any progress in analyzing Irvine’s Portola High School site contamination issue.
I should mention that the publisher of the Irvine Community News and Views is really pushing this issue in his newspaper.
More than 2,000 people have signed the petition asking the Irvine School District to test the entire site for VOCs. There is also a new website TestforToxics.org that hosts all the supporting documents that were sent to you and makes the case for requiring the IUSD to perform soil-gas testing of the entire site before school occupancy.”
Jan 7 (4:31pm): Dot returned my phone call and left a message:
Dot’s Message: “Hi Mr. Liss, This is Dot Lofstrom. I’m calling from the Burbank airport, so if you hear noise in the background, that’s what it is.
“So, I have actually been trying to do the technical analysis myself, and I finally realized I just didn’t have the time to do it justice. So, I just reassigned it yesterday to one of my technical senior geologists who is in northern California, and so, has no familiarity with the site and will be looking at it with fresh eyes and give me a recommendation after that. So that seemed right and the most fair way to go so that we can look at the data and then move forward with a recommendation. But I did just make that assignment yesterday, and he does need a little while to look it over. Thank you. Bye.”
Jan 7 (10:11 pm): I sent an email to Dot acknowledging her phone message:
Harvey: Hi Dot, I’m sorry I wasn’t available to receive your call, this afternoon, and I appreciate your rapid response. However, I did get your message, and am happy that this project will get some attention from someone who has not been involved in it, yet.
I have a couple questions:
- “Construction of Irvine’s new Portola High School is proceeding at a prodigious rate, so the costs of soil-gas testing are getting ever more expensive, since it may now require drilling through asphalt and concrete, etc. Also, as the opening date of the high school (Sept., 2016) is fast approaching, the local residents are realizing that they have students assigned to attend that new high school, and are getting ever more activated and concerned. Do you have any idea what sort of time frame we are looking at for a recommendation of how the DTSC will proceed?
- “Would you provide me the contact information for the geologist to whom you assigned this project? There is so much information available about this project, and I’ve spent so many months (years) researching it all, I could likely be helpful in speeding up the process since I know where all the pertinent information is located. And there is much more beyond what I’ve emailed to you.
Jan 8 (2:02 pm): Email from Dot: “Hello Harvey, At this point I would like to keep the identity of the geologist to myself, because of looking for an unbiased opinion. However, I would be happy to forward any additional materials to him, and I will tell him you are available for discussion if he needs to seek you out. As for the timeframe, that will depend on the ability of the geologist to complete his analysis and provide his recommendations to me, but I certainly understand the need for urgency.”
Jan 13 (4:59 pm): I sent an email to Dot with additional materials related to the Agua Chinon contaminated soil discovery where 661 cubic yards of soil were removed, to help the unnamed geologist to whom she assigned the project.
Jan 29 (4:45 pm): I called Dot on her office phone and she answered. I asked if there has been progress on our site contamination issue. She said that she received the report from the geologist, but she is not at liberty to tell me his results. She’s talking to others within her group and it’s currently on hold. I asked for her prognosis of a conclusion. That is, is this going to be weeks or days or months? She said it’s weeks, but not months. And certainly not days.
I have a strong suspicion that the unnamed geologist’s report agreed with my own assessment, rather than that of the DTSC, and that’s now a problem for them. They’re probably wringing their hands trying to figure out what to do. My guess is that they will do nothing and bury the unnamed geologist’s report.
We are trying to figure out how to obtain a copy of the report by a CA Public Records Act request; however, they require someone to copy documents, in person, at their office in Sacramento.
Anyone going to Sacramento, soon or know someone there?
Email me at info@TestForToxics.org