A Looming Battle Over Great Park Environmental Reports

At tonight’s Irvine City Council meeting, Councilwoman Christina Shea and environmental consultant and activist Roger Butow are expected to pressure the council into making environmental reports about the Great Park open to the public.

A staff report already acknowledges some lingering contamination — including a TCE plume — that has contaminated groundwater below the park, which is situated on a former Marine Corps air station. Lax rules before the mid-1970s allowed cleaning solvents to run off into the ground, according to the report.

A city-hired environmental consultant, URS Corp., is investigating contamination at the park. But the city does not release regular reports issued by the consultant, citing attorney-client privilege. The staff report says information on the reports isn’t released until the consultant reaches final conclusions and the city attorney has given legal advice to the city.

Shea does not abide by this reasoning.

“The only reason people hide things is because they have something to hide,” Shea said.

Butow, who has been an environmental consultant for 12 years, says such an opaque environmental study on public land is unprecedented. Butow says the city stonewalls him when he tries to get information about the environmental study.

“It’s an extremely frustrating process,” Butow said. “We almost never got an answer to anything we asked.”

Butow is suspicious that the park is much more contaminated than what has been revealed so far. He said a decision not to tear up the runways indicates toxic waste is probably lurking beneath the pavement.

We’ll let you know what happens.