California’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.
“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)
The 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.