Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover

Boeings-Meltdown-Makeover-graphicrev

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory sprawls across 2,850 acres in the hills between the Simi and San Fernando valleys. The site’s history includes massive chemical and radiological contamination and partial nuclear reactor meltdowns. The 1959 meltdown released more radiation than Three Mile Island in 1979.

A four-year EnviroReporter.com investigation has uncovered information including an extensive Boeing “media campaign” to bamboozle the press and public into thinking that the lab is safe enough to open immediately as open space when new evidence shows huge amounts of radiation and chemical contamination will still remain.

Thousands of pages of documents, reports, interviews, e-mails, photographs and surveillance video of demolition at the site reveal a vast Boeing meltdown makeover. New information shows the lab more radioactive than ever with a polluter-pliant government subverting its own $41.5 million radiation study.

The Boeing apparent plan to “greenwash” pollution woes away at Rocketdyne involves “astroturfing” the community, feeding media puff pieces and rewarding cooperative reporters, controlling corrupted government oversight agencies and sloppy demolition sending toxic dust into the San Fernando Valley.

At risk without a complete lab cleanup are future SSFL open space users, surrounding communities and the Los Angeles River, slated for a $2 billion revival central to the city of L.A.’s 50-year master plan.

PART ONE – Greenwashing Rocketdyne
EnviroReporter.com uncovers Boeing’s draft media campaign to paint Rocketdyne as already safe enough for visitors to use as open space or park users. Former Los Angeles Times environmental reporter Gary Polakovic’s scheme envisions use of “third parties” to “add credibility and authenticity and blunt allegations of green-washing” and will tout Boeing’s environmental stewardship of SSFL to “shift discussions from a site with a sordid past to one with potential.”

Related: “Draft Media Campaign for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory by Make Over Earth Inc.

PART TWO – Dirty Deeds
Rocketdyne’s long and gooey history has given way to Boeing throwing a congratulatory dinner for itself to applaud its environmental laurels at SSFL. Those include the use of unskilled youth to do jobs at the lab now where professionals before had worked wearing haz mat outfits. Exclusive video shows careless remediation of one of the most polluted parts of SSFL with clouds of contaminated dust blowing into the San Fernando Valley. DuPont, ExxonMobil & Monsanto award Boeing for “transforming” Rocketdyne into “open space benefiting the community.”

Related – Rocketdyne Video

PART THREE – Operation Astroturf
Boeing succeeds in replacing longtime Rocketdyne cleanup activists and the SSFL Interagency Work Group – oversite conduit to the community, elected officials and media – with a Community Advisory Group it offers to fund. The Department of Toxic Substances Control facilitates coup and kills Work Group in November as it approves CAG opposed by hundreds of residents. Boeing astroturf efforts included nurturing “third parties” who claim that the cleanup will hurt SSFL’s habitat though pollution is in areas previously disturbed.

Related – “A Trail of Flames” & “A Keen Observer

PART FOUR – Toxic Department
Boeing’s intense lobbying turns Cal-EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control into a “captured agency.” DTSC rolls over on cleanup by folding in lawsuit brought against it by Boeing over Rocketdyne cleanup levels. Encouraged by this backpedaling, another SSFL polluter, NASA, tries to back out of cleanup agreement too. DTSC’s Rocketdyne project manager plans to mirror U.S. EPA’s tossing of cleanup standards out the window. Boeing says it has decided to leave lethal strontium-90 in its dirt at cleanup levels that are 430 to 43,000 times background.

Up a River Without a CleanupPART FIVE – Up a River Without a Cleanup
Long-awaited EPA study finds high radiation in SSFL Area IV with some radionuclides over a thousand times background. EPA and DTSC ditch the agreement to cleanup SSFL to background levels of contamination, infuriating activists as government blows $41.5 million in stimulus money in the process. Contamination will continue to gush into the L.A. River, the object of a $2 billion renovation now threatened. Boeing’s meltdown makeover guru Gary Polakovic shows up at EPA meeting, warmly greeted by astroturf activist.

Related Galleries: “EPA Radiation Report meeting 12-12-12” & “EPA Radiological Survey of Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone” & “2012 SSFL FOLAR photos



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  1. From the folks at Consumer Watchdog:

    Fair Political Practices Commission Should Postpone Settlement Agreement with California Strategies and Winston Hickcox for Undisclosed Lobbying Until Boeing is Added

    SANTA MONICA, CA –Consumer Watchdog today asked the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to postpone a proposed settlement agreement between staff attorneys and three well-connected partners in the public affairs company California Strategies until one of the partners, Winston Hickcox, fully discloses his lobbying activities on behalf of Boeing in its efforts to get out of its cleanup obligations at a Southern California nuclear reactor meltdown site.

    “Mr. Hickcox, along with other former aides under Governor Jerry Brown in his first administration, have lobbied for Boeing and not disclosed it,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. “This must come to an end.”

    Winston Hickcox was an environmental aide to Governor Brown in his first terms as governor and later served as the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. Bob Hoffman was Hickcox’s Chief of Staff at CAL-EPA and also served as DTSC Chief Counsel in the mid-1990s. Peter Weiner was also an aide on toxics to Governor Brown.

    They now do work for Boeing trying to get the state to allow Boeing to walk away from cleaning up much of the radioactive and chemical contamination at its Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Los Angeles.

    “There can be no question that such people aid the process of industry capture of regulators to the detriment of the public health,” said Tucker. “This should be exposed.”

    Boeing has resisted a thorough cleanup of hazardous and radioactive waste at the SSFL site and took court action to overturn a state law requiring it. Rates for thyroid, bladder cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma are higher among residents living closer to the site than those living further away, according to a federal study. But the DTSC is only lethargically enforcing previously signed agreements with Boeing that the site would be fully cleaned up.

    Consumer Watchdog and Strumwasser & Woocher have sued the DTSC and the Department of Public Health for breaking California’s signature environmental law by allowing Boeing to dispose of radioactive debris from the site without performing an environmental impact report first and for allowing the debris to be taken to municipal dumps and metal and concrete recyclers that are not licensed to take low-level radioactive waste. http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/consumer-watchdog-filing-suit-block-top-toxics-regulators-disposal-radioactive-waste-inc

    California Strategies has a registered lobbying branch, but now the public affairs branch of the firm must also register as a lobbying firm and file all disclosure reports retroactively. The disclosures for 2012 and 2013 were required to be filed yesterday. As of last night, no disclosures were posted on the California Secretary of State’s public website.

    “We would like the FPPC to withdraw the agreement until it can be amended to include the requirement that Boeing lobbying also be disclosed,” Tucker said.

    For more on the FPPC and the DTSC, see Consumer Watchdog’s report Golden Wasteland and media coverage of DTSC and financial conflicts of interest at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/focusarea/toxics-watchdog

  2. rose sigman says:

    I lived on the East side of Simi Valley from 1985-1994. In 2000 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, one of the five cancers listed as possible from the Rocketdyne travesty. Are there any class action suites or contacts where I may file a monetary complaint, not that it will bring back the evils of radiation including loss of hearing, eyesight, teeth and general malaise since 31 radiation treatments. Thank you.

  3. Consumer Watchdog has produced a report on DTSC, including interviews with DTSC insiders that rips the lid off of this “captured” agency, Boeing’s astroturfing and greenwashing of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory along with its “sham” community advisory group plus other DTSC misdeeds across the state:
    http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/new-report-shows-regulators-not-protecting-public-toxic-harm

    The report is here:
    http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/resources/goldenwasteland.pdf
    Note on the last page of the report, that it references EnviroReporter.com‘s series Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover:
    http://www.enviroreporter.com/2012/12/boeings-meltdown-makeover/

    NBC Bay Area‘s Investigative Team TV news segment:
    http://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Insiders-Say-CA-Toxic-Regulation-is-Weak-192121371.html
    Note that in the above linked TV news segment, DTSC director Debbie Raphael tries to dodge the excellent television reporter and her cameraman on the streets of Sacramento. Why? Obviously to dodge the questions about the report but, if you watch the video at 5:19, perhaps to hide the fact that she was literally running to see Peter Weiner himself on a street corner, the ex-head of Cal-EPA – now Boeing lobbyist – who EnviroReporter.com reported on in part 4 of our series in Toxic Department:
    http://www.enviroreporter.com/2012/12/toxic-department/

    NBC4 (SoCal) news segment:
    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/video/#!/on-air/as-seen-on/Regulators-Fail-to-Protect-Neighborhoods-From-Toxic-Waste/192207251

    Senator Kevin DeLeon has called for a Senate investigation into DTSC:
    http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/blog/sacramento-responds-golden-wasteland-reportnbc-expose

  4. 1000Oaks says:

    I read the Thousand Oaks Acorn article about the EPA study and saw the illustration credit from this website which I can’t believe I hadn’t known about before. WOW. This series is mind-boggling. I’m glad the Acorn, EnviroReporter and other media are covering the contamination findings at Rocketdyne and don’t appear to have been “green-washed”. Boeing should not be able to buy its way out of a cleanup whether through snowing the media or through lobbyists or astroturfing. There is no way that that kind of contamination can not have an affect on the surrounding communities and we have the right to have peace of mind from knowing that it has been cleaned up.

  5. Jim Downey says:

    I worked at the fl. I don’t know of any movies made there. I think you are thinking of Spawn Ranch.

  6. Dean says:

    If you want some human proof, research ‘Big Sky Movie Ranch’ and the movies and television shows shot there and how many of the actors have died from cancer. Shows like ‘Little House’ for one were shot there.

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