After much sound and fury, the Alameda County Education Board saw through the tactics of the “Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste” and gave the Lawrence Hall of Science a clean bill of health. The Superintendent of Public Schools announced on the county web page that she will send her son to the Hall during the summer.
At last week’s hearing, the County Board heard from nationally known experts who are trained in the field of environmental science. These experts have based their careers and reputations on correctly evaluating health risks. They are responsible for protecting many people’s lives. I rely on their judgements when I do experiments. These experts categorically state the Lawrence Hall of Science is safe.
As any skilled lawyer knows that you can always find opposing “experts,” the “Committee” found its own sages. The committee introduced these “sages” as distinguished scientists who worked at Berkeley Lab, Los Alamos and Livermore and from that experience they are therefore experts in radiation. It did not matter to the committee that they were not radiation scientists. It did not matter that only one of four was a practicing scientist.
The first person, who was introduced as a Berkeley Lab scientist, proudly implied that he led several projects. He ranted about conspiracies and cover-ups and how he knew that the radiation measurements were incorrect. He did not mention that he was a minor mechanical engineer at Berkeley Lab with little project management leadership. I worked with this “expert” for about 10 years. He made minimal contributions to these projects. Never once did I observe any knowledge, expertise or discussion on radiation matters. From working with him, I would find it more useful to consult a podiatrist about an impending brain surgery than him about radiation.
The committee presented another so-called expert to the Board. This scientist mentioned that he left his previous jobs because of concerns for his health and toxic dangers that threatened his health. He mentioned enough conspiracies and cover-ups to make several Hollywood movies. The scientist said he quit his lucrative job and now makes about $500 a month because he could not face the danger. Later, I overheard a conversation between this distinguished scientist and a reporter. When the reporter asked him how he felt about he Alameda County Board’s decision, he confessed ignorance to what had just happened. This is astounding! He was listening to a public hearing and could not figure out what happened. This expert could not even understand simple spoken English. Maybe that is why he switched jobs.
In fact listening to these experts, I find the argument that Al Gore invented the Internet more plausible than the statement that these people are experts on radiation.
Let me mention another thing about the Committee. For several years, I have been interested in hearing their views. I want to hear their side. I often have called them on the phone and asked them in person for a chance to attend one of their meetings. This esteemed and vocal committee has never once let me attend one of their gatherings. What are they hiding? Why do they not hold public meetings? What is their secret?
The committee is very concerned about the possibility of radiation getting into Strawberry Creek. When I mentioned to them that raw sewage from the neighboring homes is polluting the creek, they were unconcerned. They simple did not care. What is the real agenda of the committee? Why are they not interested in the real toxic dangers to Berkeley?
The Committee is excellent in sprouting rumors, innuendoes, misstatements and wasting governments’ time and money. They have already wasted more than $100,000 of taxpayers’ money on these insignificant risks. They regularly occupy huge blocks of local government meeting time preventing our elected officials from doing their real jobs. Because of the excessive amount of time that they demanded from the Alameda County Board, the Board did not fully hear from the parents of a charter school that was being terminated. I am sure the parents of the children who saw their school being closed would have liked to say more. The Committee’s action prevented it.
I have several questions that I do not know. What are the Committee’s real concerns? Why do they not tell the truth at public hearings? Why do they constantly mislead the public in their literature? Why do local governments spend so much time with the Committee? When will local governments realize that working with this Committee is an utter waste of time?
Nuclear physicist Howard Matis, Ph.D., is a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Nuclear Science Division; vice president for Nuclear Physics, Contemporary Physics Education Project; and member, Home Page Committee, Division of Nuclear Physics. He notes that this opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any of the organizations to which he belongs.