Plan for Santa Susana site repair still vague

State releases report about environmental impacts


BACK THEN–The Coca testing stand at the Santa Susana Field Lab as seen in 1974. Only one test stand from the area remains.

A report evaluating the environmental impacts for cleanup at the Santa Susana Field Lab was released by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) Sept. 7, but the document is unclear on what that plan actually is.

During a media conference call last week, Mohsen Nazemi, spokesperson for DTSC, the agency overseeing remediation at the site, said actual mitigation plans won’t be released until late 2018 or early 2019.

“The document released (Sept. 7) is a program environmental impact report, which actually analyzes the environmental impacts of whatever cleanup would be ultimately decided for this site,” Nazemi said during the conference call.

“The decision documents on what the actual cleanup will be will come later.”

Tucked in the southern hills of Simi Valley, the 2,850-acre field lab had been used as a rocket engine test site beginning in the 1940s.

Boeing Co. owns 80 percent of the property, while the remaining 20 percent is owned by the federal government and overseen by NASA. The U.S. Department of Energy doesn’t own any of the land but is responsible for remediating Area IV, located in Boeing’s portion of the site of a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959.

As a result of the meltdown, Nazemi said, SSFL is “one of California’s most contaminated and complex cleanup sites.”

Dan Hirsch, president of the environmental group Committee to Bridge the Gap and a cleanup activist, said he was “deeply disturbed by the flagrantly deficient and completely backwards EIR.”

The draft report should have a proposed cleanup plan, alternatives and the potential environmental impacts of each.

“They have officially broken years of repeated promises about cleaning up the site,” Hirsch said.

“With this EIR, the DTSC is shooting first and asking questions later by doing the environmental review before even telling us how much contamination they plan to leave on site. It’s propaganda about the negative things that would occur from cleaning up the site, but there’s not one word about the negative effects of not cleaning it up,” he said.

The most frustrating part, Hirsch added, is that the report doesn’t address the agricultural standard, one of the most stringent remediation options that would allow people to eat produce grown in backyard gardens.

Nazemi said the report includes “all the activities that Ventura County indicated would be a foreseeable future use.”

The report, he said, lists suburban residential—which would allow people to build homes and safely live on the site—as an equivalent option to the agricultural standard.

But Hirsch maintains suburban residential is less protective than the agricultural standard option.

Under review

NASA, Boeing and the DOE are currently reviewing the DTSC report released on Sept. 7, but officials from all three agencies agreed the document is a milestone.

The draft report is an important step moving forward with mitigation, DOE officials told The Acorn.

Peter Zorba, NASA’s field lab project director, said the report has been a long time coming and he’s happy to finally see it completed and out for public review.

“We’re working on forming our cleanup plans for NASA’s portion of the site, and I’m hoping it will provide us with some good insight for that (and) help guide us in the right direction,” Zorba said.

After a quick review of the draft report, Boeing spokesperson Megan Hilfer said it’s important the document acknowledges that the agency’s portion of the site has been permanently recognized as preserved open space.

That fact hasn’t been included, she said.

“This draft EIR is an important document that lays the path to the DTSC’s final decision document,” Hilfer said. “Obtaining input from the entire community is crucial . . . and I hope everyone will take the opportunity to make their voices heard.”

Nazemi said all public input will be taken into account when determining the extent and thoroughness of site cleanup.

“Ultimately, the final decision is with DTSC. (The agency) is moving the cleanup process forward and holding responsible parties accountable for cleaning up the site,” he said.

Public comments can be made through the mail or during public hearings on Oct. 5 or 7 and online through Oct. 23.

To view the full draft environmental impact report or to submit online comments, visit www.dtsc.ca.gov/sitecleanup.

IN A NUTSHELL

The community can comment on the draft EIR during the following public hearings with the Department of Toxic Substances Control:

6 p.m. Thurs., Oct. 5 at the Grand Vista Hotel, 999 Enchanted Way, Simi Valley

2 p.m. Sat., Oct. 7 at St. John Eudes Church, 9901 Mason Ave., Chatsworth