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Part I - Greenwashing Rocketdyne 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.

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.

Boeing's Kamara Sams, DTSC's Norm Riley, Boeing's Tom Gallager at a November 2009 community meeting
Boeing’s Kamara Sams, DTSC’s Norm Riley, Boeing’s Tom Gallager at a November 2009 community meeting
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.

Debbie Raphael and Boeing Lobbyist Peter Weiner
Boeing lobbyist Peter Weiner testifies in support of DTSC director Debbie Raphael at her April 11 confirmation hearing.
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.

LA River Headwaters at SSFL - William Preston Bowling
LA River Headwaters at SSFL – William Preston Bowling
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.

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7 Comments

  1. Michael and Denise…..This summary of 2012 is absolutely overwhelming! Even one article alone is a knockout, but, putting them all together like this more than doubles the scary impact!
    When it comes to Fukushima, you have done an incredibly huge amount of investigation and writing on a subject that our major newspapers seemingly do not want to to touch with even a 50 foot pole. Just knowing that Fukushima reactor#4 could cause a global disaster, and that some of our food items are radioactively contaminated has been reported only by you and Denise….and no other major newspaper, to say nothing of our Governmental agencies who are supposed to be protecting all of us in the USA.
    And then there is the comedy going on up at the SSFL…our new and wonderful park. I, personally would never have understood the bait and switch positioning of the RTLS’s and the BTV’s without you. They don’t tell us this kind of thing at the technical meetings.

    THANK YOU!

  2. This reminds me of the debates I get into with nuke power advocates. I like to argue that if your efforts include a scenario that kills all life on the planet … you probably need different plans.

    Let’s not mince words. We’ve all got thyroid cancer in our futures, courtesy of Fukushima. Maybe we should try using less energy rather than more pollution.

  3. I agree with Bonnie. Great summary.

    Q: How long will it be until the final summary reads…?

    “The radioactive contamination from Fukushima has stopped.”

    A: Beyond our lifetime and for generations to come.

  4. I am very grateful to know Michael and Denise and thankful for all the excellent writing and details presented for our community on these critical topics. I love this comprehensive summary with all the links included.

  5. @David – A huge catastrophe has indeed occurred at Fukushima and has not been brought under control. But it is not too late to close the barn door on reactor #4 – it is still standing and ready to topple (see Michael’s The Unforgettable Fire). Let’s hope TEPCO removes the fuel rods from the spent fuel pool at reactor #4 before it’s too late and the entire northern hemisphere is contaminated beyond habitability. Sadly, we can only “hope” this happens before it’s too late – the Japanese government is not allowing international assistance in that effort, the United Nations is not doing anything, the Canadian government has ignored the people’s petition urging them to get involved and the U.S. is promoting the use of nuclear power in Japan. But while we are hoping, we can, as Arnie Gunderson says, “watch it like a hawk” and decide where we will evacuate to if the absolute worst happens.

    It is also not too late to close the barn door on all the 104 reactors in the U.S. that are still standing – and leaking and aging. 23 of them are GE Boiling Water Reactors that failed three times at Fukushima.

    For 2013 I encourage everybody to get involved in shutting down your local reactor and stopping the insanity of the nuclear age. Join Beyond Nuclear’s campaign to Freeze our Fukushima’s: ” a national campaign created by Beyond Nuclear to permanently suspend the operations of the most dangerous class of reactors operating in the United States today; the 23 General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, the same flawed design as those that melted down at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan.” http://www.beyondnuclear.org/freeze-our-fukushimas/ . Or find a local organization that is working to shut down the nuclear power plant closest to you. Always come back to Enviroreporter for the latest RAD NEWS. Get active and put as much time into it as you possibly can – before it really is too late to shut the barn door.

  6. Great work, intrepid enviroreporters. Tragically, Fukushima is indeed a catastrophe for the whole world, and will be for a very long time, and there’s nothing we can do about it – just like GMOs – it’s too late to shut the stable door, the horse has already bolted. The human race and planet Earth were doing fine ecologically until the last century saw war and corporate fascism become all the rage. Then what a bunch of silly monkeys we seem to have suddenly evolved into – or been conned into…

  7. @ Michael and Denise Thanks for the 2012 in Review. What an amazing amount of energy you both have so selflessly devoted to keeping a million and a half people informed. Your work has educated many about the radioactive contamination in their tuna, sushi, airplane travel and hiking adventures in LA’s Simi Valley. Inhaling that fine ocean mist now has new meaning for me as will the lovely smell of perchlorate at each fireworks demonstration. Denise, your creativity and costuming is unsurpassed. What you have both done this year is nothing short of spectacular reporting. On top of this you provide a forum for us in Radiation Conversation where we can share our knowledge and ideas. I am gratefully pressing the DONATE BUTTON and encourage all your readers to do the same and to contribute to this extremely valuable work. Wishing you both the very best in 2013!

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