“In the vast majority of methods they are identical to the EPA’s,” Malinowski said at chemical background study meeting this reporter participated in by telephone. “What we’ve been trying to do is mirror that EPA process.”
Malinowski’s mirroring would result in RTLs for chemicals many times their actual backgrounds, a scientific sleight of hand right under the noses of the community and the elected representatives who have fought for the Agreements on Consent.
The AOCs’ premise is simple: clean up Rocketdyne to its background levels so the land and groundwater will be made whole again and the place safe to be a park. Simple and prudent as they sound, implementing the AOCs means actually cleaning up the defiled soil and not jaw-boning the contamination away.
Thanks to Malinowski, DTSC and the federal EPA, it appears nothing will be remediated back to normal because the agencies have neither the will or wherewithal to find a laboratory that can perform these exacting tests down to the levels that were agreed upon – background.
So whomever represents the community and whatever efforts are made to right a failing cleanup, this bait and switch will cost the taxpayers millions for a cleanup nowhere near as comprehensive as the one agreed to in the AOCs.
The will of the people will have been thwarted, the land and groundwater left degraded, and future visitors to Rocketdyne will be exposed to unsafe levels of radionuclides. No amount of additional radiation exposure, especially ionizing radiation that can be ingested like the the poisonous radionuclides at SSFL, is safe according to a landmark study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.
The additional exposures to SSFL’s panoply of pollution will statistically lead to cancers, some of them fatal. The up side for Boeing is that it would save a bundle.
“This is like what it was 20 years ago but squared,” Hirsch told EnviroReporter.com referring to the DTSC’s return to behavior and actions that shamelessly show the department as ‘captured’ by the polluter.
Indeed, Boeing has upped its demolition derby, first exposed in Dirty Deeds, EnviroReporter.com discovered October 22. “Boeing is demolishing Building 15 in Area IV next week and sending the scrap metal to be recycled and DTSC claims that this does not violate the AOCs or a court order not to recycle radioactive metal into the consumer product stream,” said William Preston Bowling, longtime Rocketdyne activist and Radiation Ranger.
Recycling radioactive metal has been a problem nationwide for years as the Pasadena Weekly reported December 27, 2001 in an article called “Spoonglow – It’s all about savings in the multi-billion-dollar recycled radiation business.”
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.