December 10 was a milestone day in the sixth year of this website’s existence. That was the day we published Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover. Thousands of pages of documents, reports, interviews, e-mails, photographs and surveillance video of demolition at the site revealed Boeing’s vast campaign to subvert any meaningful cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.
Part one of the series, Greenwashing Rocketdyne, details Boeing’s secret media campaign to convince the press and public that polluted Rocketdyne is clean enough right now for a park. Boeing hired former LA Times writer Gary Polakovic to sell the makeover of SSFL as “a site with a sordid past to one with potential.” Related material includes the secret plan itself: “Draft Media Campaign for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory by Make Over Earth Inc.”
Part Two came out December 11 and was entitled Dirty Deeds. This article detailed how Rocketdyne’s litany of environmental accidents, spills, meltdowns and disasters had been no impediment to lab owner Boeing’s campaign of self-congratulations over its “open space vision.” Boeing threw a congratulatory dinner in Pasadena recently for itself to applaud its illusory 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.
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EnviroReporter.com obtained exclusive footage of sloppy Boeing demolition work sending clouds of contaminated dust into the San Fernando Valley.
Radiological and chemical contamination have real and sometimes deadly consequences, as demonstrated by studies on workers show and tragic stories of sick former employees and community members.
But Boeing’s polluter allies don’t seem to agree.
The Wildlife Habitat Council, a front group for DuPont, Exxon Mobil, Monsanto and other polluters, awarded Boeing for “transforming” Rocketdyne into “open space benefiting the community” from an industry group parading as an environmental organization. This dubious award appears a little premature when actually viewing the Rocketdyne demolition videos that document the shoddy remediation work on The Hill done by the company that claims the place is already clean enough for a park.In Part Three, Operation Astroturf, we examine how Boeing and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) succeeded 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 that Boeing offered to fund.
E-mails and interviews detail how Boeing and DTSC put all their support in the CAG petitioner, Christina Walsh, who has threatened, harassed and libeled community members, elected officials and the media. Another astroturf target is open-space advocate John Luker, friend to Boeing meltdown makeover PR flack Gary Polakovic, who has mounted his own campaign to contend, erroneously, that cleaning up SSFL will harm its scenic beauty. Related material from this part of the series include A Trail of Flames and A Keen Observer.
The fourth piece of the series, Toxic Department, exposes how Boeing’s huge lobbying war chest, one of the five highest corporate lobbyist coffers in the country, has turned Cal-EPA’s DTSC into a “captured agency” according to Rocketdyne activists. Community members say DTSC appeared to fold in a lawsuit brought by Boeing over the SSFL cleanup, not challenging false statements in litigation.Encouraged by this backpedaling, another SSFL polluter, NASA, tried to back out of cleanup agreement which was greeted with citizen outrage. Boeing plans to leave lethal strontium-90 in its dirt 430 to 43,000 times background where its astroturf collaborators claim no more cleanup is needed. 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.
Part five, Up a River Without a Cleanup, reported that the long-awaited EPA study found high radiation in SSFL Area IV with some radionuclides over a thousand times background. EPA and DTSC ditches the agreement to cleanup SSFL to background levels of contamination, infuriating activists as government blew $41.5 million in stimulus money in the process. The maneuver prompts calls for an investigation of the agency’s misappropriation of millions that were supposed to be the guide for the DTSC cleanup to background. With no real cleanup in sight, Rocketdyne contamination will continue to gush into the L.A. River during rain which muddies the waters of a $2 billion renovation of the river as the centerpiece to the City of Los Angeles’ 50-year master plan.
A gallery of the EPA radiation meeting is illuminating as the many of the people in this series were there. The EPA Radiological Survey of Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone has EnviroReporter.com-highlighted EPA maps of the radiological contamination in Area IV extensive hot zones.And as the last related material to the last part of the beginning of Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover, this gallery of the Los Angeles River headwaters at Rocketdyne brings home the far reaching, and flowing, implications of what happens at SSFL and its impacts downstream and downhill. The photographs by William Preston Bowling are stunning with rocket test stands and other rusting Rocketdyne relics sitting on top of heavily contaminated land.
We ended the year with the results of a Rad State Road Trip in which EnviroReporter.com tested rain, snow, air, food and drink across thirteen states and came up with some surprising results.
In 2013, EnviroReporter.com will expand its investigations into the major stories of 2012 and new ones to come. If the new year is anything like 2012, there will be plenty of hot news, real hot news.