Official Cleared in Dispute Over Bays’ Pollution

Times Staff Writer

A scientific panel Thursday cleared the director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project of charges that he withheld information about the severity of toxic contamination in Santa Monica and San Pedro bays. And it reprimanded the high-ranking aide who made the accusations.

The panel said that it found no evidence that project director Willard Bascom “deliberately misled anyone, knowingly supplied false information or withheld information that should have been published.”

Panel members said that David Brown, the aide who made the charges, had overreacted to a difference of opinion over Bascom’s presentation of the agency’s findings.

Bascom and Brown agreed to take immediate vacations to “cool off.” Neither could be reached for comment late Thursday.


In an earlier interview, Brown, 36, had expressed concern over the makeup of the scientific panel, noting that all of his choices for the group had been rejected.

Bascom, 68, a frequent spokesman at toxic contamination hearings during his 12 years at the agency, announced in a press release that he was going ahead with plans to retire July 1, a decision made before his disagreement with Brown.

The dispute began last week when Brown wrote a five-page letter to Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), head of a state task force investigating ocean contamination, charging that Bascom had provided an “unsuspecting public and unsuspecting public officials with false information” in order to benefit the Southern California waste dischargers that fund the research project.

An angry Bascom denied the allegations. On Tuesday he assembled a scientific panel to determine who was telling the truth. In the course of his two-hour presentation to the group, Bascom said that he had never provided misleading information about toxic contamination, adding that “the data I’ve given out is as good as exists in the world today.”


In a briefer presentation that followed, Brown maintained that Bascom had refused to acknowledge the contamination problem, even when his own staff members presented him with the evidence. Brown said that the Santa Monica and San Pedro bays “tend to be more contaminated” than others in the nation.