Boeing’s Meltdown Mess

Boeing's Meltdown MessCalifornia’s Department of Toxic Substances Control has come under fire from public health advocates Monday for allowing illegal demolition of radioactive buildings at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and recycling the hot metal or dumping radiation in seven Southern California dumps. A letter signed by six groups gave DTSC and the state’s Department of Public Health 24 hours to comply.

This comes in the wake of the first five parts of EnviroReporter.com’s Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover which exposed a concerted “greenwashing” and “astroturfing” campaign to sell the notion that the 2,850-acre property is already clean enough for a public park. Also exposed in December 2012 were efforts by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and DTSC to undermine a $41.5 million radiation study done of the lab.

Two months later in February came a blistering Consumer Watchdog report Golden Wasteland which showed DTSC and its director Debbie Raphael to be heavily under the influence of the polluting companies they’re supposed to regulate. The Santa Monica-based group spearheaded Monday’s letter and ultimatum which was signed by The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Committee to Bridge the Gap, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, and the Southern California Federation of Scientists.

The coalition says that DTSC is quietly allowing Boeing to dismantle former nuclear structures in Area IV of the lab without proper oversight, environmental review and public input all required by law. The group called for a halt to the tearing down of the former plutonium fuel fabrication facility called now by lab owner Boeing the Nuclear Materials Development Facility.

These Department of Energy buildings are part of Area IV of the lab where three partial nuclear meltdowns took place in 1959, 1964 and 1969. Area IV is highly polluted with radiation as EnviroReporter.com reported in March 2012 in Radiation Readings Soar at Rocketdyne. The coalition says that demolition of the old plutonium building could be torn down by next week, with four more other nuclear facilities in the pipeline for demolition.

Current sites with SSFL radioactive waste“This conduct violates numerous laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), the Health and Safety Code provisions governing disposal of radioactive materials, and an Executive Order prohibiting the disposal of waste from decommissioned facilities in municipal landfills,” the letter reads.

Consumer Watchdog released a map showing where this radioactive debris has been shipped from six structures’ destruction. They include hazardous waste landfills and municipal dumps, all of which are not licensed to accept radioactive material. The sites stretch from Buttonwillow and McKittrick in the southern Central Valley to Ventura, Simi Valley, Lancaster, Sun Valley and Asuza. Buttonwillow is the destination for the debris left when the plutonium building is picked over for recyclable metal.

“The very idea that radioactive waste could end up in the zippers of consumers’ jeans or in the steel girders of our office buildings is shocking,” said Consumer Watchdog advocate Liza Tucker. “The state is doing the opposite of protecting the public. It’s helping to expose the public to radioactive contamination. It’s inconceivable.”

“Plutonium 239 is by far the most dangerous radioisotope and one of the most toxic substances known,” according to Dr. Robert Dodge, Board Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “Once it circulates and deposits throughout the body, it exposes the blood, kidneys, liver and spleen to its cancer-causing alpha particle emissions.”

That this metal could end up recycled is an issue EnviroReporter.com first reported on in the December 27, 2001 Pasadena Weekly with “Spoonglow.” The deliberate recycling of radioactive waste into the consumer product stream is happening again, according to a report that accompanied the Monday letter to DTSC. Created by longtime lab watchdog Committee to Bridge the Gap, the report is entitled “Demolition of Radioactive Structures and the Disposal and Recyling of the Debris from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Nuclear Area and the role played by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Department of Public Health.”(12.41 mb)

Santa Susana Field Laboratory Area IVThe CBG report shows that Boeing’s own numbers showed that the already-demolished Area IV structures were contaminated with radiation and that in April the DTSC asked Boeing to amend its procedures for tearing down radiation structures and facilities that allows them to be disposed in unlicensed site. The public was not given an opportunity to comment on this secret pact to allow radiation into landfills not meant to take it.

“Boeing has recently begun tearing down buildings and other contaminated structures from the nuclear area and disposing of the wastes, not in licensed Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) disposal facilities, but in municipal and hazardous waste landfills not licensed or designed for radioactive wastes,” the CBG report says. “They have also been recycling metals and other materials. Boeing’s own data analyzed in this report indicate that those structures were radioactively contaminated.”

With Boeing meltdown makeover getting a little messier, the residents of Buttonwillow now have to consider the dumping of plutonium, one of the most toxic poisons on the planet, into its controversial dump. So lethal is this radionuclide with a half-life of 24,100 years that it takes but a few millionths of an ounce being inhaled that will produce with 100 percent certainty lung cancer.

Consumer Watchdog and its allies have given DTSC and DPH until Tuesday to cease and desist with these activities.

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  1. Sophia says:

    Michael, excellent once again.

    DTSC plans to leave 90% or more of the lead- arsenic-antimony-dioxin-furan and PAH firing range waste by simply installing a ‘cap’ over part of it. Workers will simply mix the surface and cover the goo instead of excavating and removing the mess. DTSC then plans to ‘fence off’ tons and tons of the untouched toxic remainder in order to keep kids out. Birds and other wildlife will continue to die painful deaths by ingesting the shot and debris. The toxins will be left in place for generations yet to come.

    This place is a city park in Chatsworth at the base of the Santa Susana Mountains that have a Rocketdyne creek flowing through the middle of the toxic firing range waste fields. Please investigate in only the way you do best for all to learn from and soon before it is too late.

  2. eric says:

    Being saddled with a dysfunctional and corrupt democracy/plutocracy wont help. Hence those ongoing problems with climate change denying troglodytes in the house and senate, useless gun controls, lax or shoddy/corrupted consumer protection, still using medieval feet and thumbs to measure and the list goes on.

  3. Bonnie Klea says:

    They just moved it off the hill and into our neighborhoods. Who knows what the concrete and pavement recyclers will do with their tons and tons of debris–maybe grind it up and repave our roads?

  4. Margery Brown says:

    This is now the same,repeated, and, sadly, all too familiar expose of a multi-billion dollar corporation planning to save MONEY, seemingly by having a magical ability to persuade a Government agency to ignore both the enviromental laws, and their sworn duty to protect all of us ordinary folks. Oh yes, and just by ignoring the fact that, as a result of shipping these dangerous radio-nuclides to inadequate and illegal dump sites,there will certainly be multitudes of undeserving victims of incurable cancers followed by a horrifying and painful death.
    It is bad enough to be sitting in the jet stream and oceanic current path of Fukushima, but here we all are, right at home,right in the sights of forces supposedly beyond our control. However, it is heartening to see that local citizen groups are now protesting, and planning to exert the power that they have to avert another potential SSFL injustice and tragedy!

  5. SadButTrue says:

    Maybe if we hadn’t irresponsibly bred out of control someone would give a shit.

  6. watcher says:

    This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that’s been paying attention to the government/corporate non-response to the disaster in Fukishima and it’s radiation impact on the west coast.

  7. Frank Vera says:

    Is there a possibility that some of the radioactive waste went to the former George Air Force Base 8 miles north of Victorville, CA.

    George AFB had a radioactive dump that the DOE, AF and DOD refuse to acknowledge. This dumpsite was located south of Air Base road, east of the old bomb dump, northeast of the old small arms range. It was cleaned up “off the books” in the early 1980s.

    Frank Vera
    GeorgeAFB.Info

  8. Nothing Is An Accident says:

    All these nuclear disasters are purposely being allowed to be, on going. Why? Because, there’s no reason to care and clean them up. Especially when, the need to reduce the population is the leadership’s objective.

    Denying that well-known fact, is to deny that nuclear “anything” is deadly and dangerous. Once people face the facts that their Government sees them as “worthless and useless eaters” then, maybe things will get off this road to Hell!

    What I find really, really funny is, even the people doing the spying, lying, fighting, stealing, and dealing in all levels of Government for the ultra, ultra rich….those Government “enablers” too are deemed, “a necessary evil” but, still as useless and only to be used as pawn to execute their plans! Once the plans have succeeded, they too, will be cut from the equation of humanity. The “enablers” are ensuring their own demise!

    But hey, they do it because, “It’s their job!”

  9. Thanks Mike, Denise, and others involved in exposing this.

    Turning a nuclear meltdown site into.. a park?

    Whoa. Kookoo in kookoo-land. That place won’t be “safe” for tens of millions of years.

    No nukes is good nukes.

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