Faced with a community incensed by EPA chucking out its own background standards, the EPA held its own meeting December 12 at the Grande Vista in Simi Valley. This time DTSC tagged along with the federal agency, toxic twins telling tall tales. Television crews swarmed the hotel lobby looking for concerned folks to interview. They found no shortage of community members as well as a squad of active astroturfers doing Boeing's bidding. Amazingly, but not surprisingly because of the monies probably involved, Makeover Earth's Gary Polakovic showed up even as his Boeing meltdown makeover plan had been exposed in the Daily News and EnviroReporter.com. The meeting mirrored the December 5 DTSC show, where supposed experts tried to convince the audience that while they could detect background levels of radiation and establish a baseline over which remediation is required, they couldn't guarantee that DTSC could. Therefore, according to this twisted logic, it was necessary to toss the background numbers and come up with an incomprehensible formula that would result in vastly higher cleanup levels. The only difference, however, was the EPA consumed $41.5 million to come up with none of the requirements they were charged with: determining background and mapping out where was the contaminated soil and groundwater.
The 4,727-page EPA report "Draft Final Radiological Characterization of Soils, Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone, Area IV Radiological Study" showed that the radiation contamination across Area IV of SSFL was far greater than previously known. Huge hits of strontium-90, plutonium 239-240 and cesium-137 are mapped showing wide swaths of radioactive soil, roads, and reactor remains. One Area IV road is contaminated with strontium-90 at 67 times background. Cesium-137 clocks in at 1,016 times normal in one spot and a stupefying 1,918 times background in another. Nearby, a borehole under an old reactor finds a hot spot deep beneath the surface: Plutonium 239-240 over 24 feet down intensely ionizing at over 92 times background. What makes these enormous radiation readings even more alarming is the fact that most of Area IV has supposedly been remediated, twice in some cases. Plus, government surveys signed off on these areas declaring them fit for unrestricted use.
The highly contaminated Alpha rocket test stands are the headwaters of the Los Angeles River beginning in eastern Ventura County. Friends of the Los Angeles River, FoLAR, has fought since 1985 to "protect and restore the natural and historic heritage of the Los Angeles River and its riparian habitat through inclusive planning, education and wise stewardship," according to its website. One of its co-founders is Lewis MacAdams, a much-lauded poet, activist, journalist, and the L.A. River's most powerful advocate. Last February, MacAdams went with Bill Bowling to look at the headwaters of the Los Angeles River itself, Rocketdyne. Accompanied by Merrilee Fellows, a manager in Risk Communications at NASA, they explored rocket test stand complexes and runoff waste "ponds," one even equipped with an old Rockwell International row boat nevertheless kept shipshape. This was the first time MacAdams had been to the river's headwaters and he was none too pleased. “Speaking for myself, the headwaters of the L.A. River are a stinking cesspool visually," MacAdams told EnviroReporter.com, and can't help but have negative implications for the river downstream.” All photos by William Preston Bowling 2012
Special thanks for the use of many of these images to the Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education, Rocketdyne Archives, H2OhNo!!!, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and Department of Energy, as well as various municipal, state and federal government agencies.