Coverage of Target Issue in Bee and Aggie Stands in Marked Contrast To the Enterprise


This morning residents in Davis wake up to more coverage of the Target issue. However, in marked contrast to the article two weeks ago in the Davis Enterprise, the Sacramento Bee and California Aggie present largely balanced arguments weighing the concerns of the local citizen’s groups against the stance of the EPA.

On Monday December 22, 2008, the Vanguard broke the news that local group, Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Oversight Group (FFSOG) was concerned about the discovery of new detection levels of TCP at the Target Superfund site. The group was asking for new testing before Target was set to lay the foundation for the new store on January 5, 2009 (coincidentally today). The following day, the Davis Enterprise was downplaying this story running an article entitled: “Toxics won’t impede Target: New contaminant deemed low-risk,” in which EPA project supervisor Bonnie Arthur completely downplayed any risk of the project. [Note I tried to link to the original article, but the Enterprise has already removed it from their website].

Claire St. John of the Enterprise writes:

The discovery of the pesticide isn’t surprising. It was first detected at the Superfund cleanup site west of where the new Target will be built. TCP was first discovered in 1983, after the Environmental Protection Agency began cleaning up a site where the former Frontier Fertilizer company dumped pesticides in unlined pits along Second Street.

‘It’s not a new discovery of contamination,’ said Bonnie Arthur, project supervisor for the EPA’s Superfund Division. ‘It’s a slightly different area than what we’ve seen before. It’s a little bit further to the east. It’s not unexpected in terms of what we know about how this chemical moves around in the subsurface.’

‘We’ll probably have to install some additional monitoring wells just to investigate it further,’ Arthur said. ‘But it’s not something that’s a showstopper to us in terms of the Target development.’

‘We have an enforceable agreement with them, so if we had to, we’d drill through their slab,’ Arthur said. ‘We’ve done it before. We’re not going to ignore it, but we don’t think there’s any health risk. Nobody’s drinking the water.'”

Sacramento Bee and California Aggie Present a Very Different Story

In this morning’s California Aggie, Jeremy Ogul as promised two weeks ago, writes an article that is quite balanced. “Citizens’ group wants Target project to wait: Group concerned about discovery of toxic chemicals below ground.”

He writes:

“As construction workers prepare to pour the foundation for a new Target store in Davis, a citizens oversight group is sounding the alarm about a recent discovery of a hazardous substance nearby.

Recent groundwater samples from an area 100 feet east of the planned location for the Target building revealed the presence of trichloropropane (TCP), a synthetic chemical that the U.S. government considers a hazardous substance.

The samples were taken on the Target property, which sits directly east of an EPA Superfund cleanup site on Second Street in East Davis. The Superfund site was established after the Frontier Fertilizer company illegally dumped pesticides and other chemicals during the 1980s, contaminating soil and groundwater in the area.

Pamela Nieberg, president of the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Oversight Group, sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting more investigation into the discovery.”

Pam Nieberg who heads FFSOG is then quoted:

“It is an issue of determining the extent and probable source of the TCP contamination, possible health impacts in the neighborhood and how to remediate if necessary… “Once the slab is poured, that sampling will be difficult if not impossible.”

It is only after introducing the group’s concerns that the Aggie presents the EPA’s view:

“EPA officials said they did not believe the discovery was enough to stop the Target project from moving forward.

“While it is our intention to further investigate the TCP found in this area, we believe that this additional investigation can occur either before or after the Target store is constructed,” said EPA project manager Bonnie Arthur…

In a letter to the oversight group, Arthur noted that TCP has only been found in two of 40 groundwater sample locations on the Target property, neither of which were at the location of the building itself…”

Sacramento Bee Coverage Likewise Much More Balanced

Hudson Sangree of the Sacramento Bee this morning writes an article entitled: “Davis residents wary of Target store near toxic Superfund site.”

The first two graphs present both sides of the issue:

“Construction of a Target store in Davis won’t be delayed by the discovery of a hazardous chemical from a nearby toxic site, according to an official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But as crews get ready to pour the store’s foundation, neighbors say their children’s health should not be jeopardized to make sure a Target store gets built on schedule. More time is needed for testing, they say.”

The Sacramento Bee then quotes, neighbor Deb Westergaard:

“Let’s find out what’s going on instead of putting the neighborhood at risk.”

Then we get into the EPA’s position:

“On Friday, EPA Superfund project manager Bonnie Arthur sent a letter to the head of a citizens’ group saying the discovery of TCP was a matter for further investigation but should not push back Target’s construction timeline. “We believe this additional investigation can occur either before or after the Target store is built,” she wrote. The chemical does not pose an immediate danger, she said in the letter. “We have not found TCP concentrations that present a current health risk to the community,” Arthur wrote.”

However, Mr. Sangree continues to contrast this issue against the backdrop of resident concerns.

“The chemical has previously been found at the neighboring Frontier Fertilizer Superfund site along Second Street, near Interstate 80 and Mace Boulevard.

But nearby residents are now concerned it may be migrating northeast under the Target site, toward their homes.

For decades, the eight-acre Frontier Fertilizer grounds were used to store and mix pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals.”

Back to the EPA’s viewpoint:

“Arthur told The Bee that TCP is “a contaminant we’ve been tracking at the site for 10 years.” The chemical is known to cause cancer, she said. But she said it does not threaten the city’s drinking water supply, which is drawn from deeper wells. “Nobody’s drinking this water,” she said.

Representatives of Target Corp. could not be reached for comment Friday.

Davis city officials say the company’s construction team is planning to pour the big-box store’s concrete slab in the next two weeks.”

And finally back to the concerns by Ms. Westergaard and also Pam Nieberg:

“Residents argue it would be worth delaying for a month or two to determine the extent of the risk and what cleanup is needed. There is a new park nearby, and many families with young children live in the Mace Ranch subdivision.

“If it wasn’t that Target was pushing to pour its slab, I think (the EPA) would be taking more time,” Westergaard said.

Pam Nieberg, a community activist in Davis, serves as the liaison to the EPA for the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund Oversight Group. The group, which employs a technical adviser, is part of an EPA-funded program to involve residents during the cleanup of superfund sites. She wrote to Arthur in November urging the EPA to conduct further sampling “to determine the extent and source of the TCP contamination prior to further construction at the Target site.”

Nieberg said she isn’t trying to stop it from being built, but thinks a brief delay is reasonable. The TCP found at the Target site was outside the prior boundaries of the cleanup area and may be flowing northeast, toward homes, she said. “It’s out there moving in the groundwater,” she said.

Samples were 3,000 times the level that requires a safety notification, she said. Nieberg said she was concerned the TCP could “gas up” into homes. In the air or water, the chemical can cause eye and throat irritation. Target, Nieberg said, was planning to protect its employees and shoppers by laying down 4 inches of gravel below the store and a plastic vapor barrier. Pipes will vent the chemical from the ground into the air, she said. She said the extent of the contamination should be known before construction starts. “We wanted them to look for (TCP) first,” Nieberg said. “Once you’ve poured a big concrete slab, it’s going to be hard to do testing.” “

It is instructive to note the difference in both of these articles which give resident and group concerns equal weight to the EPA’s denial that this is a serious problem. There is concern attention given to the group FFSOG and Pam Nieberg.

In the Davis Enterprise article, the title and the tone led to the conclusion that this was not a problem. The views of Pam Nieberg were presented in a brief fashion and buried in the middle after the concerns were fully quelled by the official position of EPA supervisor Bonnie Arthur.

In the Sacramento Bee by contrast, the views of both were interspersed throughout the article. Both views were presented in the first two paragraphs and then given equal weight through out.

This is in fact a balanced article. The Enterprise article stands in stark contrast to the approach given in both the Bee and the Aggie this morning.

An interesting example appears even in the quotes of Bonnie Arthur by the Davis Enterprise versus the Sacramento Bee.

The Davis Enterprise quotes Ms. Arthur:

“We’re not going to ignore it, but we don’t think there’s any health risk. Nobody’s drinking the water.”

On the other hand, in the Sacramento Bee, in virtually the same quote, Arthur acknowledges that TCP is known to cause cancer, but she still downplays it.

“The chemical is known to cause cancer, she said. But she said it does not threaten the city’s drinking water supply, which is drawn from deeper wells. “Nobody’s drinking this water,” she said.”

To me both of those statements give me very different reactions. In one case, they really do not believe there is anything to be concerned about. But that changes in the second statement quoted in the Sacramento Bee. The question becomes in the second quote–is it really true that “nobody” is drinking the water and that the water that is contaminated is not someone leaching into the city’s wells. And if the plume is moving, how does the EPA know for sure? These questions only arise due to the Sacramento Bee’s coverage which acknowledges for the first time that the chemical is known to cause cancer.

Had the Bee article been printed in the Davis Enterprise on the 23rd of December, the Vanguard likely would not have had to run a follow up story on the 24th criticizing the Enterprise and trying to set the record straight by showing the EPA’s poor track record under the Bush administration.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

25 thoughts on “Coverage of Target Issue in Bee and Aggie Stands in Marked Contrast To the Enterprise”

  1. Anonymous

    Hey blog boy , why do you bash the Enterprise ? Do you have to always pick on somebody to have a article to write .If you can’t come up with your own stories , then maybe your in the wrong business .Even Lois Lane and Clark Kent who are characters in movies and cartoons , do there job on a level that you will never reach .

  2. David M. Greenwald

    I have criticized three articles in the last six months, this is one of them. In my opinion it is egregious and does the community a disservice.This blog was founded in part because of the inadequate coverage of the Enterprise. Most of the time, I pay no attention to them, but they completely and out of hand dismissed this issue. So it’s relevant.Sorry if you don’t like it, don’t read it.

  3. Anonymous

    …If you can’t come up with your own stories , then maybe your in the wrong business ….He actually broke the story, but don’t get let facts get in the way of a good diatribe.

  4. Pam Nieberg

    Great coverage, David. Thank you for making this issue public in the first place. The Bee and the Aggie did indeed present much more balanced coverage than the Enterprise. There is equal weight given to community concerns. That is one of the main goals of USEPA’s Technical Assistance Program that the FFSOG is part of: to ensure that community concerns are heard and addressed.There is an error in the Aggie coverage where the author states that TCP is not classified as a cancer-causing agent. He must have gotten that information from earlier work with TCP. There is recent research that does show that TCP is a cancer causing chemical, and it is recognized by the State of California as causing cancer in humans and as a known toxin. EPA’s representative says that there is little concern with the TCP, though she does also admit it is a cancer-causing agent, because no one is drinking that water. It is true that is detected in the shallower aquifers only and that we get our drinking water from much deeper aquifers, but there is still potential for human contact. The concern is that it is a volatile chemical and can volatilize up into the atmosphere. The engineering controls that Target is incorporating into the new building are to prevent any TCP vapors from entering the building and to protect workers in the building. Our concern is with the potential for this chemical to have reached or to be approaching the homes to the north and north east of the detect. EPA’s toxicologist confirmed that the TCP is at a level that could make it a cancer risk for residents in overlying homes, if it were under the homes and volatilizing up into them. This is one of the reasons we asked EPA to do more samplings prior to further construction work in the field.At this point, EPA is agreeing to do more study, but will also allow Target to proceed. This may or may not be a problem down the road.

  5. Keeping them honest

    The Vanguard was founded as an antidote to the biased reporting of the Davis Enterprise.Recent Davis Enterprise articles written by Claire St. John (Target/EPA &

  6. Infuriated

    I would like to make the following points:1) I am a proponent of Target, but agree that the cement slab for Target construction should not be layed down until this matter of the TCP plume spreading in the wrong direction towards neighboring homes is investigated.2) I was always against the homes being built beside a toxic site in the first place, BEFORE any cleanup was undertaken. Those homes should not have been built until AFTER cleanup occurred.3) I am a registered Republican, but feel the EPA is dragging its feet on the cleanup of this site. The site should have been cleaned up BEFORE any houses were built on it, let alone Target.4) Target would garner more community support if it stopped construction temporarily, joined Pam Neiberg’s group, and demanded the EPA do its job and check this matter out.5) Why is the EPA dragging its feet in making sure this site is cleaned up? Telling us the spread of TCP in the wrong direction, essentially uncontrolled seepage, isn’t a major concern is nothing more than the EPA covering up the fact that it has not done much oversight to make sure this site is cleaned up in a timely manner.6) Does Target have any responsibility here to clean up the site? Do the homeowners? Or is this strictly the responsibility of the feds/EPA? Does this play any part in why the EPA/Target wants to look the other way on this issue? Just wondering…

  7. Mitch Mifkin

    I simply choose not to read the Enterprise, since they have such little local content and what local content is there is not researched in depth. I also stopped reading due to a columnist who’s name is so similar to my own.

  8. Anonymous

    …It couldn’t be that some people don’t think the TCP thing is a huge crisis, couldn’t it?…What does that have to do with the newspapers unequal coverage?

  9. Mike

    …I simply choose not to read the Enterprise, since they have such little local content and what local content is there is not researched in depth. I also stopped reading due to a columnist who’s name is so similar to my own….Ironic since Rich Rifkin’s columns are great local content and very well researched. He’s probably just too smart for you to understand, df.

  10. Mitch Mifkin

    Rifkin’s columns are opinion, not news, and the ‘research’ is just cherry-picked ‘facts’ to support his opinion.The Enterprise needs to get at the real news and analysis as to why things are happening the way they are. They will report, for example, on a County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, but won’t delve beyond what happen in public to get at the inter-relationships and business interests behind each decision (like what goes on in D5).Mike, perhaps I’m just too smart to waste my time with Rifkin’s screeds, df.

  11. Whine Patrol

    …The Enterprise article stands in stark contrast to the approach given in both the Bee and the Aggie this morning…. Let’s be honest here. This is not a question of …balance…, because the Enterprise article was straight factual reporting (albeit maybe not as in-depth as it could have been). I canceled the Bee a few years ago, and would never rely on the Aggie for …news… precisely because they are largely just opinion rags. I get my opinion fix from blogs like this and expect my newspaper to report the news as it happened, not as the activists would like it to happen. The complaint about the Enterprise is simply the activists whining about a missed opportunity to stir up renewed opposition to the Target development using every tactic they can invent. Any rational person lacking a vested interest in defeating the Target development can trace the facts and conclude that a delay would result in no significant difference to planned TCP testing and mitigation efforts. The transparent hope of these activists is that a delay will help them build more FUD so the city somehow turns against the Target development and reverses measure K. That ain’t gonna’ happen folks, so please start focusing on the next NIMBY project.The activists should be happy they have papers like the Bee and the Aggie to carry water for them, and stop whining about the one that doesn

  12. Anonymous

    Thanks for the coverage, Dave. Even tho you did not say such, I take offense at calling you …blog boy…. So what’s so wrong with …examined… news? I appreciate the fact that you present a thoughtful approach to local current events. To the *very* ugly, annonymous Enterise-loving, name-caller – STOP reading this blog if you don’t like it. Why not focus your attention on something you can get your head around…say: Fox news? predigested, well packaged, no thinking required, just fear… more your style?You rock, DPD.

  13. Anonymous

    To Anon of 1/5/09, 10:06 a.m. And while you’re at it could you please ask hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel,(some 4000 fired since 2005). Also ask them, if they are going to keep firing rockets at Israel, to please select only military targets and not just anybody. That would help. I do understand war, having been in one. Please ask BOTH sides to STOP.

  14. Anonymous

    …You rock, DPD…How silly. David M. Greenwald, if you haven’t noticed, has not referred to himself as DPD for months. Why would you?David M. Greenwald is less tolerant, more quick tempered, and a better writer than the old DPD, IMO.

  15. Christina

    …Rifkin’s columns are opinion, not news, and the ‘research’ is just cherry-picked ‘facts’ to support his opinion….Count me as a fan of Rich’s writing.I told Rich last week that his Christmas column (…No Room at the Inn…) about a big apartment complex in Davis in the 1950s which did not permit black people to live there was excellent. That may have not been news to old timers, but I never heard that before. David G. covers some topics very well. But Rich writes about a lot of things David never considers.With all due respect to David, Rich is a better writer. That might not mean anything to you, but it is nice to read someone who is interesting, informative and can write well.

  16. Anonymous

    Blog boy and Rich Rifkin and Sue Greenwald write with free ink on this blog , because the Enterprise is a real business , who has to make real decisions ..This place here is just cyber gossip !!!

  17. Anonymous

    Zipp edidi dooda do sure got a lot to do tonight , gotta start my fire in my open hearth fireplace , pull out my Davis Enterprise newspaper and read it front to back , and dream of Davis real estate equity , because I have mine.Can’t wait for my Enterprise to arrive manana ..Goodnight all !

  18. Supporting Accountability

    Anonymous 1/5/09 5:56 PM -What a whiner you are. I love how you critique the Vangaurd and the call the blog …cyber gossip!… but then you log on and whine! Stop gossip whining. Go read your Enterprise and leave the intelligent discussions of the city and county to us.Thank you for covering the story David. We would not know the full scope of the Target issue if it were not for the Vanguard. Thank you to Pam Neiberg and others for holding the Bush EPA accountable.

  19. Blog Administrator

    If you want to email me events or stories for consideration please do so. Stick to the issue and do not post events as an entry or they will be deleted. Thanks.

  20. Pam Nieberg

    To: Whine patrol:Beg to differ. The Enterprise did not report straight news. The story of the TCP was broken by David in this blog and would not have appeared anywhere had not two of the oversight members attended a technical meeting with EPA, state reps and Target. This is where we found out about the TCP hit where it was not expected and at high enough levels to be a cancer risk to people above it. The concern is that it has migrated to the homes north of there and is off-gassing into the atmosphere there, exposing the residents to toxic levels of TCP. We just want EPA to do the tests in a timely manner. If the oversight group had not found out about the TCP, this story would not have gone anywhere. EPA was certainly not going to break it. They got involved only after David broke the story and the Enterprise picked it up. The original story was as David wrote it: the oversight group went after EPA for not doing its job. The Enterprise wrote it as the EPA breaking this news and the oversight group responding to it. That is not how it happened. Thanks to David and his wonderful blog for giving us all an opportunity and venue to air issues that the Enterprise will not.

  21. Anonymous

    I can’t wait until January 21, when the new administration is in office so I don’t ever have to hear the words BUSH EPA again. When the new EPA does absoluttely nothing different in this situation, who are all the activists going to blame?

  22. Anonymous

    …Blog boy and Rich Rifkin and Sue Greenwald write with free ink on this blog , because the Enterprise is a real business , who has to make real decisions ..This place here is just cyber gossip !!!…Exactly, you just proved the Vanguard’s point. Your decisions are based on …business… decisions, not based on fact. Without money and rent to potentially sway the facts, David Greenwald is here to tell the unbiased, unbought TRUTH. What I want to know is WHERE are our public officials? Why is the EPA allowing target to continue build over the TCP? Why is Yolo County so lacking in any kind of environmental controls that is necessary in a farming community like this. I still cannot believe my eyes sometimes as I drive along Poleline in Davis from Woodland. To my right, to this very day and age, I still see an archaic form of irrigation..(flood irrigation.) With little or no controls, unscrupulous farmers (not all of them) greedily guzzle precious water from our aquifers and flood the fields with precious water. Then they get to return life threatening, and environmentally damaging toxins back to the aquifers that they so wastefully stole from. 70% of water waste and use is not from residential and industrial segments, but from the agricultural segments. And in the mean time, they continue to lobby for as little regulation as possible claiming that they need to be economically …competetive…. How is it possible that organic farmers have stricter regulations and control while maintaining a healthy profit? Davis residents must stop these greedy and careless farmers from contaminating our land and harming our health. Most of them want to live here for the quality of life but complain up and down Davis about the evils of regulation. They want their cake, and they want us to eat their poison.

  23. indigorocks

    This is why we must get rid of corrupt people that work for the government under the guise of protecting us.. instead they take money from industry and side with corporate criminals.
    Time to get rid of Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA

    Petitions to sign~Stop the Corexit~CLEAN energy~stop OFF shore drilling~No and Label Gmo’s~ask Lisa P. Jackson to Resign.
    .by Please Stop the Toxic Chemicals they are using on the OIL SPILL. on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 10:19pm.Sign as many as you can and pass them on..

    Thank YOU!

    this is the MOST IMPORTANT!

    ✔This PETITION calls for new law on all chemicals dispersants ~

    by Dr. Riki Ott (Toxicologist)




    De-list toxic products from the US EPA Product Schedule for Oil Spill Contingency Plans ~

    ✔Petition to Halt the Use of Chemical Dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Dr. David E. Guggenheim is president of 1planet1ocean.

    -Stop the Use of Dispersants in the Gulf Target:U.S. Congress

    Stop all Federal Contracts with British Petroleum

    Stop BP’s new project in B.C.’s Rocky Mountains

    ✔you can Tweet your message to your rep. Officals on this link… Stop the Corexit NOW! ‎2gov – Civic Participation Made Simple ‎

    ✔☏ the White House

    Whitehouse Hotline 202-456-1111 ..

    or email

    ✔Support the FRAC Act of 2009

    Co-sponsored by Sen. Casey and Sen. Schumer, to amend the Safe Water Drinking Act to repeal Bush Administration exemptions for hydraulic fracturing.

    ✔”I oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age.”

    ✔✔Help End Our Dangerous Addiction to Oil and Say No to the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline.

    Tell Secretary Clinton and President Obama to help end our dangerous addiction to oil and say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

    ✔The People want Lisa P. Jackson (EPA) to resign or be fired

    ✔☏ Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA 1-202-564-4700

    ✔Tell Congress: Donate All Oil Company Campaign Contributions to Save Gulf Wildlife

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for