California’s Santa Susanna Field Lab Cleanup to Be Rigorous

SACRAMENTO, California, December 9, 2010 (ENS) – Low-level radiation and toxic chemical contamination at a former rocket engine test and nuclear research facility along the border of Los Angeles and Ventura counties will be cleaned up to strict standards under an agreement reached this week by federal and state government agencies.

NASA, the U.S. Energy Department and the Boeing Company operated facilities on portions of the Santa Susana Field Lab site from 1949 to 2006, and are responsible for the cleanup overseen by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The state has been in negotiations with all three responsible parties for several years.

Department of Energy once operated several nuclear reactors, associated fuel facilities and laboratories on what is known as Area IV of the 2,850 acre SSFL facility.

Santa Susana Field Lab (Photo by Joan Blair)

NASA conducted liquid-fuel rocket engine testing on its portion of the facility.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, “I am pleased that NASA and the Department of Energy have stepped up to the plate and agreed to clean up the Santa Susana site to the levels California has determined will provide the greatest protection to nearby communities … including children and pregnant women.”

“This historic agreement is great news for nearby residents in Ventura County and the people of California,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I applaud all parties for their commitment to working on a solution that will clean up the environment and protect the health of residents in the bordering communities.”

Linda Adams, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency has led the negotiations. “I am thrilled that DOE and NASA have agreed to clean up the property to the highest environmental standards so that local residents can once again trust in the safety of their surrounding environment,” she said.

“I’m happy that after three years of intense negotiations with the responsible parties, we have been able to reach agreement that will provide the protective cleanup that the community has sought for over 50 years,” said Adams.

The agreement meets the high bar set by California Senate Bill 990 which requires the entire Santa Susana Field Lab property to be cleaned up to stringent and protective standards, and places the cleanup of both chemical and radioactive contamination under the oversight of the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

“This is a milestone that fulfils commitments we made earlier this year to the community and brings to an end a years of negotiation,” said Maziar Movassaghi, acting director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. “It allows us to focus on cleaning the property, and we are truly pleased to get on with the work of cleaning this site for the surrounding community.”

The agreements reached this week cover the Energy Department’s 290 acres and NASA’s 451 acres of the site. The remainder of the property is owned by the Boeing Company.

Since acquiring our site in 1996, Boeing says in a statement on its website, the company has made “significant progress in our clean-up efforts, and we are moving toward our goal of preserving Santa Susana as open space.”

This includes removing 50,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris, analyzing more than 10,000 soil and groundwater samples for numerous chemical constituents, installing sophisticated storm water drainage controls at numerous locations and installing more than 400 groundwater monitoring wells on and off site, said Boeing.

In December 2008, Boeing sued Department of Toxic Substances Control over the enforceability of the state bill, and continues to clean up the property under an earlier agreement that is not to the stringent environmental standard called for in SB 990. Despite the lawsuit, the state continues to negotiate with Boeing.

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