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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.

Huge gamma rad hits on Runkle-Ahmanson-Boeing border-WPB 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.


20 years of ongoing SSFL/Rocketdyne investigative reporting
June 1998June 2018

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  1. [From our friends at Consumer Watchdog.]

    Consumer Watchdog News Release

    April 3, 2013

    Contact: Liza Tucker, 310-392-7931 (direct) or 626-372-1964 (cell)

    Consumer Watchdog Calls for Firing of Top Toxic Officials After Fair Political Practices Commission Launches Investigation

    SANTA MONICA, CA –Following news that the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) will investigate a top toxics regulator for financial conflicts of interest, Consumer Watchdog today reiterated its call for the firing of two top officials at the Department of Toxic Substances Control who invested as much as six and seven figures into companies that the DTSC regulates or licenses. The non-profit, non-partisan public interest group made a complaint to FPPC last month.

    It was the second time that the non-partisan public interest group called for the dismissal of Chief Deputy Director Odette Madriago and Deputy Director Stewart Black. Thousands of Californians have written Governor Brown calling for their removal.

    “Though you say you want to clean house, the people running your department are tainted by the specter of impropriety,” wrote consumer advocate Liza Tucker in a letter to DTSC Director Debbie Raphael today. “When the chief deputy of your agency invests up to $100,000 in Chevron and does not want to regulate the refinery industry, you have to willfully turn a blind eye not to see something is terribly wrong. This is why people do not trust government.”

    See letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltr_on_dtsc_response04-03-13.pdf

    The letter calls for Ms. Raphael to:

    •Use powers to heavily fine refiners like Chevron for toxic pollution

    •Revoke permits of serial violators of environmental laws such as hazardous waste recyclers Evergreen Oil in Newark and Phibro-Tech in Santa Fe Springs

    •Deny new permits to serial violators of environmental laws and to companies that have unfinished corrective actions such as Phibro-Tech and Chemical Waste Management at Kettleman Hills hazardous waste dump.

    •Hire 130 criminal investigators onto staff by 2014, up from 13 now.

    •Aggressively investigate and refer for prosecution cases of toxic pollution such as the poisoned community of Wildomar.

    In recent months, the DTSC has refused to sanction Chevron for its toxic refinery fire in Richmond last summer that sent thousands to the hospital. In addition, Ms. Madriago accompanied Ms. Raphael to visit Chevron operations last year, and has in the past been primary liaison between the hazardous waste management program, the legislature, and industry lobbyists.

    The non-profit public interest group turned up the financial conflicts of interest as part of its six-month investigation of the DTSC that led to its scathing report on the department’s failure to protect communities from toxic harm, Golden Wasteland.

    See report here: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org/golden-wasteland-report

    Said Tucker, “These conflicts are a symptom of the department’s capture by the very industry it is supposed to regulate.” The group’s Golden Wasteland report documented that capture, and outlined how the department has failed to protect eight communities poisoned by hazardous waste processors that habitually violate environmental laws.

    DTSC Director Debbie Raphael posted a response to the report, titled “Restoring Public Confidence in DTSC,” on March 21. “Your formal, posted response admits that the department has lost public confidence, but you do little to restore it,” Tucker wrote.

    “You did not address a single member among eight communities we highlighted as under toxic siege because of the department’s failure to protect them from harm,” the letter said.

    “A state’s environmental laws are only as good as its enforcement,” the letter concludes. “Will you move forward with exercising the power already vested in the department to protect communities and the environment from toxic harm? Or will you continue on the current path that sends the public you work for, the regulated community, and your own staff exactly the wrong message?”

    For more, visit our website at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/focusarea/toxics-watchdog

  2. Consumer Watchdog has produced a report on DTSC, including interviews with DTSC insiders that rips the lid off of this “captured” agency, Boeing’s astroturfing and greenwashing of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory along with its “sham” community advisory group plus other DTSC misdeeds across the state:

    The report is here:
    Note on the last page of the report, that it references EnviroReporter.com‘s series Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover:

    NBC Bay Area‘s Investigative Team TV news segment:
    Note that in the above linked TV news segment, DTSC director Debbie Raphael tries to dodge the excellent television reporter and her cameraman on the streets of Sacramento. Why? Obviously to dodge the questions about the report but, if you watch the video at 5:19, perhaps to hide the fact that she was literally running to see Peter Weiner himself on a street corner, the ex-head of Cal-EPA – now Boeing lobbyist – who EnviroReporter.com reported on in part 4 of our series in Toxic Department:

    NBC4 (SoCal) news segment:

    Senator Kevin DeLeon has called for a Senate investigation into DTSC:

  3. Yet Another Simi Mom

    Back in the early 1980’s, my husband and I bought a new home in Simi Valley. I was so thrilled to live in a pleasant suburban community. My son, who just turned 30, was born and we mixed his baby formula using Simi Valley’s drinking water. As a child, he played on both the Barden Brandeis land and on a ranch at the top of Erringer’s southern end, roughly right below the most radioactive part of Rocketdyne. As an adult, my son now has a terrible time keeping weight on, which is listed as one possible result of ingesting perchlorate in one’s drinking water. There is an Environmental Working Group study which says there is no “safe” level of perchlorate in drinking water for infants and children. Publicly elected water officials in California tell me that public water agencies around the state regularly serve drinking water with 4ppb of perchlorate. Unfortunately, the Cal-EPA refuses to recognize that there are babies all over California, like my son, who are drinking baby formula mixed with perchlorate laden water.

    We moved away from Simi Valley just as its residents began to be aware of the serious chemical and radioactive contaminants moving from Rocketdyne’s property into Simi Valley. I treasure the Box Canyon activists who have worked for so long to try to get Rocketdyne cleaned up. It breaks my heart that most of them have come down with cancer and one of their sons, who played in caves north of Rocketdyne as a tween and as a teen, has now died of cancer.

    Back when the U.S. District Court in Downtown LA was about to rule on Boeing’s lawsuit claiming SB 990 is unconstitutional, I read all of the documents filed with that court, by both the Attorney General and Boeing. They’re called pleadings.

    Attached to Boeing’s pleadings were pieces of transcripts of depositions of a high level DTSC employee, a man whose name still shows up on DTSC Director Debbie Raphael’s “Executive Leadership Team”. Just go to DTSC’s website, click on Debbie Raphael’s page, click on her Executive Leadership Team button, and then look at the hierarchical chart. The man’s name is still there. Most Rocketdyne clean-up activists know who I am talking about.

    Those transcript excerpts in the U.S. District Court files clearly show that DTSC management employee “throwing” his deposition, just like the White Sox threw the world series. He testified UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY that DTSC did not like it that the Legislature took away the DTSC staff’s discretion in how tough the DTSC could be on Boeing. He testified that SB 990 was unnecessary. He made other appalling claims about what DTSC was not finding at Rocketdyne. Worst of all, in the transcript pages he made a snide remark indicating that he was jealous of and didn’t like Dan Hirsch. Given the man’s position at DTSC, and given the manipulative, combative intelligence I’ve heard the man use when he was speaking about Boeing as a DTSC employee, it’s crystal clear that he wasn’t just some dumb bunny being sandbagged by a clever defense attorney. In the transcripts it was crystal clear that the management level DTSC employee knew exactly what he was saying and that he understood the impact his words would have on the enforceability of SB990.

    In terms of “facts” to invalidate SB 990 as unconstitutional, Boeing didn’t need any of their own witnesses. They had a high level DTSC employee handing the case to Boeing on a silver platter.

    For most litigation lawyers, only once or twice in their lives do lawyers see employees of their client surprise them by “going to the enemy side” during a deposition in critical litigation. I could see from the pleadings filed on the State’s behalf, in defending SB 990, that the deputy and assistant AG’s were trying so very hard to protect what the Legislature wanted in enacting the law. It was crystal clear that the A.G.’s Office and the majority in the Legislature were intentionally stabbed in the back by that management level DTSC employee. I felt so sorry for those lawyers for the people of the California. It’s hard to win when your client’s own employees intentionally stab you in the back. While Enviroreporter tells us that the new A.G.’s office is appealing the Federal Court order, the reality is that thanks to that particular high level DTSC employee, there is a 99% chance that the trial judge’s decision will be upheld in favor of Boeing.

    Over the years, I’ve met and worked with members of the Legislature, who’ve told me that the thing that makes them the most angry is when state and local government employees outright defy laws the Legislature has passed and directed public employees to fully implement. I’ve never had occasion to tell a California legislator that I’ve seen a state employee stab them in the back and harm the public interest as well…until I saw those deposition transcript excerpts in the SB990 case.

    Strangely, when Debbie Raphael became DTSC Director, that traitor to the public interest apparently suffered no punishment. He’s still aggressively pursuing his own agendas, rather than trying to protect the public interest. He’s still bs’ing the Legislature and the Governor and their staff members.

    If you’re interested in seeing exactly what the high level management employee of DTSC said in the SB990 litigation, do a California Public Records Act request to the Attorney General’s office for full copies of the deposition transcripts of DTSC employees taken in Boeing’s case to invalidate SB990.

    Those transcripts show me that several of DTSC’s high level employees are well beyond captive regulators as to the Rocketdyne remediation. They’re outright traitors to the health, safety and welfare people of the people of State of California.

    And it’s not just Rocketdyne which has a “captive regulator”. DTSC’s employees are doing next to nothing in forcing environmental clean up by polluters of the public’s drinking water in the South Bay, in Irvine, in West Covina and in Santa Clarita, just to name a few locations.

    I thought Debbie Raphael was a nice woman and qualified biologist who was too politically naive to serve as an aggressive, pro-public-health Director of DTSC, but I was wrong. Reading that Peter Weiner testified in favor of her confirmation as DTSC Director was all that I needed to know about the new reality at DTSC.

  4. I’m terribly disappointed in our two senators, Boxer and Feinstein. Is there another issue in this state that cries out louder for their attention? May I suggest that Gov. Brown, Boxer, Feinstein, Villaragosa, all LA council members, local congressional representatives, and DTSC top officials, along with Boeing’s CEO, and their families, get together for a picnic in Area IV. It should last at least 8 hours. Then they should all be tested for exposure to radiation and chemicals.

    Although a mere pipe dream, it seems to be the only way to “inform” them of what they are doing. Boeing SHOULD be sued as a belligerent polluter by both the state and the feds. As such, Boeing should be banned from any future contracts with both governments. And the taxes it refuses to pay should go to the remediation of the site. Contracts and agreements apparently serve only to distract their opponents. No consequences for bad actions. No wonder kids today think cheating in school is just fine if it helps them get the grades they want. They will soon be the captains of industry. yikes. Makes me sick.

  5. I’m sorry but Boeing does NOT have a right to make money by buying lying and manipulating its way out of cleaning up a toxic site. That is ridiculous. It has partnered with a corrupt government to save money and put the health of innocents at risk by trying to sell Pollution Park as open space before it is cleaned up. And lawsuits why they don’t mind spending money when it comes to lawyers and lobbyists who get the government to throw the case like in SB 990. Its small change to them like funding the a ssfl CAG but the payoff is huge no cleanup. Boeing + dtsc a marriage made in heaven so a community has to live in hell the knowledge that that those scenic hills might be killing them or their loved ones. This story has played out in similar ways across the country and world even. Boeing got an award from a polluter front group Wildlife Habitat Council remember? Its board has global corporate criminals like Monsanto and Dupont. All with the money to buy whoever is in their way government or “community” members traitor big ego sellouts. This is a case study and cautionary tale. The genre is tradgey!

  6. This is confusing. Who is responsible for this, Troy? Boeing has a right to make as much money as it wants, right? If the government is corrupted is it the companys fault? My taxes are paid for this?

  7. Simi Mom,

    You’re right, they are getting away with it. I’m not being hyperbolic here (I don’t think) — this article series is the ONLY thing I’ve heard about Boeing walking away from a full-on meltdown. This is like a slow-moving Fukushima.

    I’m trying to think through how to get this issue in front of more people. Perhaps we try mass action at a Boeing annual meeting. Or (I’m fantasizing here), a lawsuit à la BP that gets Boeing temporarily barred from government contracts. THAT would get their attention.

  8. Troy I think they are getting away with it! And that makes me so angry. I am sending these articles out to everyone I know and urge others to do the same. This story is HUGE and the world needs to know. Yes its the holidays but be in the giving spirit give the gift of life and health and the banning of evil! Because that is what this is and now that we know if we all do nothing we have know one to blame but ourselves.

  9. The power of Boeing’s money becomes more naked, and they’re using it at higher and higher targets. First, you see an environmental reporter become a paid shill of the energy industry. A community activist becomes an active supporter of the SSFL’s mock cleanup. And a state director and her staff actually subvert the cleanup effort.

    My hat’s off to Boeing. They’re getting effective advice, and they’re following it. To be sure, they’re never going to remediate the hellhole that is SSFL — that’s not a problem for a mighty corporation, that’s the task for the little people — but at least they’ve played the game well enough to pretend they’re responsible citizens with public support.

    If it weren’t for these articles, I think Boeing would have gotten away with foisting a poisonous SSFL site on the public.

  10. So now I just finished with this blockbuster and I am reeling. The idea that the dtsc director would think such a silly statement about lobbyists would fly means she is out of touch or not that bright. Why else would DTSC kill the work group over the desires of so many and approve a CAG without verifying names and then black out contact information? The Boeing lobbyists want to make sure the public stays in the dark and knows the general public [are] busy working people and parents who won’t go to CAG meetings. They are paid well whether its about silencing the truth or trying to get the media to believe the site is clean and who cares who gets sick. Selling their souls or don’t they have them?

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