The City of Los Angeles released two peer reviews Tuesday, August 15th, on groundwater dewatering associated with Playa Vista’s methane gas mitigation systems.

Los Angeles City Council voted to hire peer reviewers and hold two public hearings after the California Second District Court of Appeals ordered the city to vacate its approval of the Playa Vista Phase 1 Methane Prevention Detection and Monitoring Plan.

The first public hearing was held August 15th.

In its October 2005 ruling, the Second Appellate Court found that the city had failed to determine whether groundwater dewatering in connection with city-approved methane mitigation meas- ures would result in new or more severe environmental impacts.

Dewatering keeps underground methane mitigation systems clear of water so that the deepest methane gas collection pipe rests one foot above the highest groundwater level.

Methane gas is pumped out from the ground underneath some of Playa Vista’s buildings to prevent hazardous concentrations and water is pumped away from the methane gas pipes so that the pipes work properly.

The court vacated the city’s approval of the methane mitigation plan, ordered city officials to determine whether a supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR) is required on dewatering and directed city officials to proceed in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In January, the City Council voted seven to three to reject local Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s motion requiring a supplemental environmental impact report and called for peer reviewers to narrow their studies to the one issue of dewatering.

Rosendahl represents the 11th Council District, which includes Playa Vista.

“I put a motion before the City Council asking for an SEIR following the court’s decision, which for good or bad would have finally resolved the methane gas safety issue,” Rosendahl said. “I did not get the eight votes needed for an SEIR.”

In addition to the hearings conducted by the city’s chief legislative analyst, Gerry Miller, Rosendahl is planning a third public hearing on his own.

The peer reviewers — Geocon Inland Empire and Fugro West — found no evidence that dewatering would result in increased potential for subsidence (sinking), add significant stress to the structures and methane barrier system or cause contaminant gas plumes to become mobilized.

Miller said Geocon and Fugro were hired for their expertise in geotechnical engineering and hydrology and their impartiality in having never worked for Playa Vista, the City of Los Angeles or The Gas Company.

The Gas Company has abandoned gas wells and an underground gas storage reservoir near Playa Vista.

“The science is consistent,” said Playa Vista president Steve Soboroff.

“The reports on phase one dewatering conducted by some of the top experts in America found no significant environmental impacts and the reports on phase two dewatering found no significant environmental impacts.

“Now the city’s own experts, who have reviewed the reports, found no significant environmental impacts. It’s time for the city to bring this to closure. We don’t need three public hearings.”

Playa Vista residents and supporters asked city officials to explain the necessity for public hearings since building and occupancy permits have already been issued, phase one of construction is nearly complete and underground methane gas is prevalent throughout Southern California.

“Methane may be a problem in other communities, but it is not a problem here because Playa Vista has built state-of-the-art systems to deal with it,” said Playa Vista resident Diane Lewis.

Neighbors echoed her words.

Environmentalists and residents from nearby Westchester, Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey questioned the validity of the peer reviews.

They claim the peer review process is invalid because city officials and city consultants studied paperwork previously written by consultants working for Playa Vista and only on the subject of dewatering.

These reports, Playa Vista opponents said, were released years ago and do not contain new information about environmental impacts and methane gas hazards.

“The issuing of occupancy permits should be stopped until a new environmental impact report and federal environment statement have been completed to respond to all of the new information that has been brought forth since the last review process back in 1995,” said Playa del Rey resident Marcia Hanscomb.

“What will city officials tell nearby residents and people who drive on Lincoln and Jefferson Boulevards every day when an explosion occurs at Playa Vista?”

The city’s second public hearing and Rosendahl’s public hearing are yet to be scheduled.