There is also much more money to be made by Boeing by just not having to spend it in the first place. Boeing is relying on much less strict open space standards as its cleanup guidelines and not cleaning to background, a move that saves millions because of the vastly reduced amount of contaminated soil and rubble that the more comprehensive cleanup back to normal causes.
That hazardous waste and debris then has to be shipped to a licensed facility that handles nuclear, chemical or mixed waste. It’s a lot cheaper to be able to dump SSFL’s dregs of the Cold War without restrictions at any local dump. Better yet is not having to move it in the first place. But that would leave a lot of poisonous substances behind that the public will soon be exposed to once the place is released as open space and parkland.
Open space standards leave concentrations of contaminants 10,000 times higher than rural residential residential preliminary remediation goals (PRGs) and hundreds of times higher than suburban residential PRGs.
The toxins involved are extremely dangerous even in minute amounts. Contamination from meltdowns, spills, dumping, and burning is well documented by radiological and chemical sampling and testing. The amounts of carcinogens that could be left behind will be staggering if Boeing succeeds in selling SSFL as “no significant risk to human health today” as Gary Polakovic’s plan puts it.
Dan Hirsch, who was responsible for bringing the 1959 Sodium Reactor Experiment partial meltdown to public light in 1979, says that the amount of strontium-90 that will be left in the soil is outrageously high. Sr-90 is a calcium mimicker that fools the body into holding onto it. The deadly radionuclide, with a 28.8-year half life, targets the blood and bones and causes leukemia.
“Boeing claims an open space cleanup standard of 32.2 pCi/g [picocuries per gram] to 3,220 for strontium-90,” Hirsch told EnviroReporter.com. “The rural residential preliminary remediation goal is 0.00139 pCi/g. That is 23,000 to 2,300,000 times the rural residential preliminary remediation goal. If there is a high background, one one defaults to background. EPA says strontium-90 background is 0.075 pCi/g. Thus the open space cleanup level Boeing is pushing is 430 to 43,000 times background.”
The U.S. EPA considers anything three times background to be significantly above background. The California Highway Patrol deems any material over three times normal as a potential hazardous materials situation according to a state of Nevada hazmat report obtained by EnviroReporter.com.
With the amount of toxins uncovered at Rocketdyne over the years making it one of the most polluted places in Southern California, with the unfortunate distinction of being the headwaters of the Los Angeles River, it seems technically possible that CHP could have a huge hazmat problem on its hands if and when a park ever opened.
Whether it ends up as Hot Slots Casino, Rocketdyneland aerospace park, open space or all that and more, it’s looking more and more like SSFL won’t be cleaned up. The public will pay the price. The radiation and chemicals at Rocketdyne are some of the most deadly ever to foul such a large area of Southern California.
Allowing people to use the land in the shape it’s in would toss caution to the wind, the same wind that carried toxic dust down into the San Fernando Valley during haphazard bulldozing of toxic hot spots. In the absence of a cleanup to background, and leaving most of the sickly sentiments in place, keeping the public off the property may be the most prudent thing to do. That would simply require a decent perimeter fence and locked gates around the entire Santa Susana Field Laboratory.
Unfortunately, until DTSC is swept clean of polluter collaborators, which would mean much of the upper echelons of the department, cleanup of Rocketdyne will remain illusory. And with no real clean up, the site will pose risks for generations to come.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency, after churning through $41.5 million of taxpayer monies to end up basically declaring the site clean despite lethal radionuclides clocking in at over a thousand times background, signaled strongly on December 12 that no significant remediation would take place.
The communities around Rocketdyne, along the Los Angeles River and future visitors to the site, have been left out in the cold, deserted to deal with the hot zones that will stay in place thanks to an industry-compromised DTSC and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.