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Building 4093 was also going to get the same knockdown treatment by Boeing despite its record of radiation contamination. That pollution shouldn’t be surprising since the building housed the L-85/AE-6 reactor which was fueled by 93.11 percent enriched uranium-235. According to a company report, other “radionuclides of concern” at the building site included cesium-137, strontium-90, cobalt-60, and uranium-238.

It’s not surprising that Building 4093’s radiation remains should be of concern considering its use and the litany of accidents at it. A fission gas leak March 25, 1959 contaminated part of the reactor’s high bay and the employees in it with a whopping 7.5 to 13 millirem per hour of the hot stuff. An employee and part of the high bay were contaminated July 30, 1982 by spilled uranium-235 and a radioactive filter was found tossed into ‘normal’ debris May 24, 1995. These are just the reported screw-ups.

Building 4093 with strontium-90 over 195 times backgroundEvidence shows that Building 4093’s environs are still hot today. Even after two radiation remediation attempts that DOE and Boeing claim have taken place in Area IV years ago, mammoth measurements of radiation still remain. A map of the area in one of the $41.5 million EPA radiation study appendices shows sky-high strontium-90 readings (see inset map). Far from being cleaned up, the higher Sr-90 reading is over 195 times background.

Just as shocking, the “Radioactive Trigger Level” (RTL) in the sample reading box is nowhere near background which it should be according to the AOC signed by DOE and DTSC in 2010; instead it is over 37 times background. This is the essence of the $41.5 million fraud: The radiation measurements were extremely accurate but the RTLs are way over background.

After hot dirt samples like this one, and thousands of others that were taken and measured in laboratories, EPA along with DTSC manipulated the RTLs so as to make them much higher than background. That way, the trigger for cleanup was so high barely any cleanup would be needed at all.

Another facility ripped from the ground before the court injunction was the Empire State Atomic Development Authority, or ESADA. A bed plate at the site clocked in at 266 disintegrations per minute of highly dangerous alpha radiation before it was torn up. Nothing over 20 disintegrations should have been removed according to Boeing’s own radiation survey of the ESADA.

EnviroReporter.com exposed the possible connection between the ESADA’s radiation and heavy metals contamination and that found in Area IV-adjacent Runkle Canyon in There Lies the Fault in 2009. Now, after years of concerted effort by the City of Simi Valley and KB Home to discount radiation and heavy metal contamination in Runkle Canyon, the tractors have begun leveling the hillsides since December 2013.

Runkle Dust

When the floor was opened for Work Group panel questions, many in the audience expressed concern about the dust landing on their homes from KB Home construction in controversial Runkle Canyon. Most of these folks were new to the issues but they sure knew what dust was.

Runkle construction Dec 14 2013 BKB Home began construction last December on 461 homes in Runkle Canyon. Higher on the 1,595-acre property, KB Home’s property borders Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. A local citizens group called the Radiation Rangers have fought the development since 2006 and found high heavy metals in Runkle Creek in 2007. The City of Simi Valley subsequently tested the creek and found even higher levels of the toxins.

What was in that dust was what many in the Work Group audience wanted to know. And how much.

This reporter broke the news in March 2005 that one of the developers before KB Home acquired Runkle Canyon hired an environmental firm that found high strontium-90 levels in Runkle Canyon soil. Costa Mesa-based Foster Wheeler’s 58 soil samples averaged 1.39 picocuries per gram (pCi/g), or six times the EPA’s Preliminary Remediation Goal (PRG) and nearly 27 times above the typical EPA background level for Sr-90 in the area at that time.

The hottest sampling spot, and the one closest to Area IV, measured 12.34 pCi/g, was over 54 times the EPA’s PRG and 237 times the normal background for the radionuclide in 2005. Strontium-90 has a half-life of 28.8 years and “mimics the properties of calcium and is taken up by living organisms and made a part of their electrolytes as well as deposited in bones,” according to a Georgia State University hyperphysics website. “As a part of the bones, it is not subsequently excreted like cesium-137 would be. It has the potential for causing cancer or damaging the rapidly reproducing bone marrow cells.”

Runkle Canyon dust settling over Simi Valley neighborhoods may be even more unsettling to residents when the tonnage of it is figured in. A 2005 Runkle Canyon’s fugitive dust analysis that was derived from numbers in the developer’s 2004 EIR showed that 112.26 tons of dust will be generated by construction.

Strontium-90 is considered even more dangerous than its beta-emitting cousin cesium-137. Both are bone and blood seeking elements that the body mistakes for calcium. Leukemia and other blood cancers are caused by strontium-90.

“Increased strontium-90 contamination could only be related to nuclear fission of uranium, therefore, it’s most likely related to the Santa Susana nuclear reactor facilities,” said Dr. Robert Dodge to this reporter in 2005. “I think this should be an issue of concern not only to individuals in the vicinity of the proposed development, but also to anyone downwind of any construction proposal.”

Glow In The Dark Park

The last audience question fielded by the Work Group panel elicited giggles when read aloud. “Do they still plan to open Glow in the Dark Park as I have named it for the SSFL site?”

The laughter quickly subsided as that potential reality sunk in. “Let me explain what’s behind the question,” answered Hirsch beginning an explanation that spelled out what’s at stake for the future of Rocketdyne. “The Boeing Company as I have mentioned has sued to block the cleanup law and it refused to sign the agreement that NASA and DOE did sign.

“It has argued it would like to declare the land uninhabitable, forever, and restrict it to day hikes and picnics and make it into a park,” Hirsch said. “The reasoning behind that – we would love to see it as a park once it’s cleaned up – I think huge numbers of people would agree with that. But the reason Boeing wants to declare it a park is that if you can argue that people are only on the property a few hours a year for a hike – let’s say 8 hours a year – there’s 8,760 hours in a year – that means you can leave a thousand times more contamination.”

Astonishment registered on many faces in the audience, as they realized the catch – Boeing’s Glow in the Dark Park open space standards would do nothing to protect those who live near the site from SSFL’s contamination.

“And that’s what’s their motive because they would save a lot of money,” Hirsch said. “It doesn’t do any good for the people who live nearby. They’re still living in homes. So, there is still pressure to have them exempted from the cleanup agreements and leave vastly larger amounts.

“I’ve done calculations about it and none of the radioactivity would be cleaned up at ll. NASA itself estimated that about 90 percent of the contamination on their land would not be cleaned up if they use the parkland cleanup standard.”

NASA and Boeing could then donate their land to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians with the later taking a healthy tax break as well as both saving hundreds of millions in cleanup cost. Then a massive casino could be built on the site where coins could tumble out of slot machines while SSFL runoff continues its gooey way down through Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

As for the community members who want the complex with a glowing past cleaned to background levels of chemicals and radiation, they could go stuff it.

Same goes for future generations, who may as well be told, “Forget it, folks. It’s China Syndrome Town.”

NEXT: PART THREE – TRUTH OR SCARE?

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

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2 Comments

  1. Another Simi Mom

    Wow. The report above was a house rocker.

    Michael is correct and Dan is correct.

    I can only add one point:

    DTSC’s employees and management cannot be trusted.

    DTSC has a history of approving “dead of night” removals of depleted uranium contaminated soil from the Whittaker Bermite site in Saugus, CA, which served to economically benefit the former property owner, Whittaker Corporation of Simi Valley. The DU contaminated soil had been sitting on the Bermite property for roughly 20 years, held down in large part by a fairly dense brush cover which grew after ammunition testing work at Bermite stopped.

    In that circumstance DTSC’s Project Manager approved a contractor hired by Whittaker (a) digging up the DU contaminated soil, (b) placing it in unmarked trucks which were supposed to be covered, but observers said in many cases were not and (c) hauling the DU contaminated soil out of the Santa Clarita Valley in the dead of night, taken through the City of Las Vegas without any notice to that city or the Nevada Highway Patrol and (d) disposed of in Utah.

    In planning and approving that process DTSC chose not to notify the public in the Santa Clarita Valley, not to notify the school district whose high school the DU laden trucks were passing, not to formally notify the City of Santa Clarita (other than by whispers in the ear of a friendly city staffer.)

    In planning and approving that process, DTSC did not comply with CEQA and moved heaven and earth to keep its plans secret until after the statute of limitations to challenge the plans in court had passed.

    In planning and approving that process the DTSC asked for input from the L.A. County Health Department, which sent a list of conditions on the “dig up and drive away” which would have protected the public health…but DTSC just ignored those comments.

    The “public” in Santa Clarita noticed when they started seeing a whole lot of tractor trailer lights on the Bermite property at night. Locals couldn’t get DTSC to admit was going on, but California DPH ratted them out after 300 double truck loads of the DU contaminated soil had been hauled away in the dead of night.

    The DTSC was unapologetic about what it had done, citing a provision in a 2002 Order it had issued to Whittaker Corporation which said that DTSC could order Whittaker to take action “in an emergency”. Some emergency. The DU contaminated soil had been sitting on the Bermite property for 20 years.

    Never trust DTSC employees or managers. Even if DTSC has signed a piece of paper. There’s an old expression “you can’t estop the public, or contract away the police power” which means, in English, that the DTSC can change its mind on any issue, unless some court has issued an order or judgment against them.

  2. Thank you on your excellent reporting.

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