She then conducted a new test, one that environmentalists and environmental consultants I've talked to have never heard of. A test, it seems, without a name.
I asked Dr. Klein what the test was called, and she said, "It's called the alternative test to determine the ..."
She paused, and then continued, "... to determine the solubility, no, the leachability of lead in ..."
"It's just called the alternative test," she said finally.
So, I asked, is the new test generally accepted in the environmental or scientific communities?
"I don't know," Dr. Klein answered.
And who, I inquired, developed it?
"I don't know," she answered.
In the end, then, based on one test without a proper name -- a test that has been around for only two or three years -- the Giants' lead-laced dirt mountain was "reclassified" into a substance that would not leach lead when moistened, and that could, therefore, be dumped in an ordinary landfill.
It was a remarkable turnaround -- and it happened remarkably quickly. Other recent reclassification requests have taken from six months to two years to be processed. The Giants' reclassification request was approved just 16 days after DTSC gathered its samples.
"It wouldn't surprise me if it was a rapid decision," Dr. Klein said. "The Giants were asking for a very rapid decision. The Giants definitely communicated that to us."
Klein denied that she felt pressured to come to a favorable conclusion for the Giants.
But a source in DTSC who asked not to be named said Klein had shared with him and others a feeling that she had been unduly pressured to find a way to allow the Giants to take their dirt to a Class 2 facility.
"There was pressure brought to bear; that's as simple as it gets," said the high-ranking DTSC staffer. "The Giants wanted the project to move forward, and Willie Brown had it on his plate. There were unseen forces brought to bear on line staff."
On Feb. 26, Kimi Klein was writing a letter to the Giants' general counsel, Jack Bair, telling him that the team could take its now formerly toxic soil to Altamont. Her phone rang. It was Steve Bloom, the chairman of the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay chapter hazardous waste committee. Bloom, an affable fellow with a deep knowledge of environmental law, had not been too worried about the Giants' reclassification request.
Even if DTSC were to rationalize its way around the soluble-lead provisions of Title 22, there was still the new Sher/Strom-Martin law, now part of the state Health and Safety Code.
So Bloom was surprised to find out that Klein was approving the reclassification. He asked her about the Sher/Strom-Martin law. And, Bloom says, she thanked him for reminding her about the new law. She added a sentence at the end of her letter.
"The representative sampling which was performed on the waste indicates that it is subject to the provisions of Section 25157.8 California Health and Safety Code. This section mandates specific requirements before lead-contaminated materials containing greater than 350 milligrams per kilogram may be disposed of in California," her letter reads.
In her own, bureaucratic way, Klein was telling the Giants that they may have avoided the requirements of Title 22, but they still had to follow the Sher/Strom-Martin law.
But trucks -- whole convoys of them -- started rolling out of the new Giants stadium site, heading to the Altamont landfill on the same day Klein's letter was received. All through the weekend and two more days, trucks came, loaded up with toxic soil, and hauled it to Altamont.
Meanwhile, DTSC staffers were calling the Sierra Club offices in Sacramento and telling the environmental group that the Giants' reclassification approval was very fishy. It was rushed, they said. It violated the Sher/Strom-Martin law. And DTSC staffers say they'd learned that the Giants had ordered trucks for the haul to Altamont at least a week before the approval came down from DTSC. The situation smacked of a fix.
Almost simultaneously Bloom was calling his counterparts in Sacramento and saying the same things. He too had heard about the trucks being ordered early. Bonnie Holms-Gen, a lobbyist with the Sierra Club, called Jody Sparks and Sparks called everyone she could get ahold of in DTSC.
"Jody was a bitch," she said of herself.
She reminded Deputy Director Bob Borzelleri of the Sher/Strom-Martin requirements.
Borzelleri called Robert Stephens, a deputy director who oversees the hazardous waste division, and he reviewed the reclassification order and the science backing it up.
This is where things get murky.
Borzelleri said in an interview that Stephens discovered Klein had mistakenly applied a federal hazardous waste regulation regarding water-soluble lead, instead of the lower California standard. He told me the screw-up happened because one scientist, Christopher Marxen, had gone on jury duty before he finished the tests and when Klein took over she applied the wrong standard.
But Klein said in an interview that Marxen did not begin jury duty until the tests were all done and the reclassification order was granted. And she was emphatic that she did not apply the wrong lead standard. She went on to say that no one in upper management had communicated to her why they overturned her decision, one which she still stands by as good science.
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