Sounding off over Rocketdyne cleanup milestone – Pros & Con
Left to right: Dawn Kowalski, Marie Mason, Dan Hirsch, Holly Huff, Christina Walsh, D'Lanie Blaze, Bonnie Klea, Bill Bowling, Dave Einhorn
Left to right: Dawn Kowalski, Marie Mason, Dan Hirsch, Holly Huff, Christina Walsh, D'Lanie Blaze, Bonnie Klea, Bill Bowling, Dave Einhorn

Cal/EPA Secretary Linda Adams
“I’d like to thank our partners for their tireless efforts. U.S. EPA, community members, Boeing, and local and state elected officials continue to be valuable partners in our efforts to plan and implement site cleanup.”

Louise Rishoff, District Director for Assemblymember Julia Brownley (Assembly District 41 – Democrat)
A huge amount of credit on this one belongs to Linda Adams. Having the agency Secretary hands-on with this issue, facing down the political might of the Boeing Company and their resistance to cleaning up this highly contaminated and dangerous site, was a personal priority for her. It made all the difference. Her involvement was just extraordinary and Assemblymember Brownley is deeply grateful to her.

Christina Walsh, co-founder of and creator and web master of
“To me, today was one of those days in your life that you never forget. Sitting in the meeting room at the Governor’s office hearing the news that the State was not going to deal in any more nonsense, and was keeping control where it belongs – with California. It reminded me that all things are possible, even when we are faced with the ugly truth about the impacts from what generations before us did under the guise of going to the moon. We have come such a long way in this last year, and with the leadership we have now, and the agreements and law we have in place, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t get this right, finally. This is the year of “yes we can” and we saw a united community today, clear in our goals of long-time efforts for the most protective clean-up and getting OUR legacy right. 

“We saw the writing on the wall with signals from EPA that they wouldn’t follow SB990. It is such a relief to see the strength and keen perception of the state’s leadership in Secretary Adams and Mr. Riley that saw through the rhetoric of what would be coming down the pike when already talking about an ARAR waiver, before characterization is even complete. This idea of skipping ahead to “parkland” because we don’t have the attention-span or patience to get investigation right, might have serious implications to the quality of the clean-up that is ultimately accomplished. “Yes we can!

“What a moment when Sheila James Kuehl entered the Secretary’s office during the call. We owe so much to her and to Dan who pushed bill after bill trying to get acknowledgement from our government that promises had been made, and broken about cleaning up this site. When the law was signed and the Senator told us in her office that she had to make a deal to “carry to pass” new legislation to basically undo it in the next session. She looked us square in the face and said, “but I’ve only promised on my behalf. I expect you all to be yourselves, and if that means opposing me, then that’s what you do.” I will never forget the look in her eyes, She basically fell on the sword to make sure SB990 was signed in to law. One step at a time until we get it done. Then came the first LOI between Boeing and the State, and the second, when Dan said, “what about a commitment between the state and the people?”

“We’ve been defending SB990 for a year now, and today, we see law, and a paradigm shift to new possibilities. Now it is time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and see what we can accomplish.”

D’Lanie Blaze, creator and web master for The
“I’m elated about today’s outcome, which is the result of the tireless efforts of many who – for decades – have remained firm in their convictions and fought for what is right. I think many could learn a great lesson from the veterans to this issue, who have created positive change against insurmountable odds through commitment and tenacity, and a willingness to get involved. I am so grateful to every one of them.

“I am also grateful for SB990 on behalf of SSFL’s former employees, who dedicated their lives to protecting our country during the Cold War and Space Race. They felt pride in their work, certain that their efforts were serving their country and protecting its citizens. Leaving a site that poses a threat to the very people the employees worked hard to protect – often at their own peril – would be a disservice to their contributions and patriotism. A clean site through SB990’s implementation is the only acceptable route to facilitating a healthy community. It’s also the best way – the only way fitting – to honor the service and sacrifices made by SSFL’s Cold War and Space Race Heroes. Many are no longer with us, and many continue their own war against illnesses consequential to their exposures to radiation and chemicals at SSFL. SB990 is a victory for them, too.

“As I newcomer, my arrival seems like it’s just in time to celebrate the results of others’ years of hard work, and that seems less than fair. But I know there is more to be done, and it is an honor to stand with this group of people, and keep learning from them, and help to make a difference.”

William Preston Bowling, co-founder of and creator and web master of
“SB990 is still in place and very much appreciated by the community members who have fought a 30 year battle alongside with the legislators who wrote the bill. I credit Norm Riley and his fresh approach the decades of foot-dragging by DTSC predecessors. It gives me Hope that our laws can be defended and show their true intent.”

Chris Rowe
January 1, 2009 letter to Governor Schwarzenegger supporting Superfund status for lab

“What is happening is that the law – SB 990 is in conflict with the EPA method of determining cleanup standards. Under the EPA, the whole site would be characterized, the future use would be determined, and the site would be cleaned up to the appropriate human health and environmental risk standards.

“Under SB 990, the community is looking at the land as zoned “rural residential” and they want it cleaned up to a 100% agricultural use standard. In other words, all of the food that you consume is grown on your own property. Yet they still want the land donated as parkland.

“It is my understanding that every agency leader, the owners, and the operators, as well as the government officials involved in this site – each interprets SB 990 differently. Therefore what was a tremendous victory for Senator Kuehl and Assembly woman Brownley in terms of environmental protection is turning into a nightmare to apply. The EPA does not see SB 990 as an ARAR – “Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements”.

“There should be three goals: to protect the public health, to protect the environment, and to protect the budget.

“I believe that the full community is not adequately being assessed as to the complexities of the cleanup that they are asking for. What has been ordered recently in the “Northern Drainage” of this site has essentially stripped the land to bedrock. This means that endangered species could have been impacted, and certainly, a major area of cultural interest was cleaned up without an archaeologist present.

“The costs in my opinion are staggering. One figure is that to remediate this whole site will be a billion dollars. Again, Boeing will not speak to their figures publicly.

“However, based on estimates from the DOE and NASA, the costs to clean up the DOE and NASA portions – which would need to be appropriated by Congress – could be about $200 million to clean up to a residential standard, and about three times that – $600 million to clean up to the agricultural standard.

“So what I am asking you is to listen to everyone – not just the activists.

“Please take the time to consider the impacts of what requiring a clean up to the SB 990 level with a 100 % agricultural land use will have on the economy, on the land, and on the future use of the site.

“I believe that if you require Boeing, NASA, and the DOE to clean up to SB 990 standards, that Boeing could then try to recover costs by selling the land as multimillion dollar home sites. I don’t think that the site can be cleaned up to remove all of the toxic chemicals in the groundwater below or the radionuclides that are present – or at least not in our lifetimes. So I don’t ever want this property to be sold for homes – it is imperative that you lock in an agreement of a donation of this land with Boeing while also having them agree to clean up the site to a residential standard that will protect the neighboring properties. The DTSC or the federal EPA can determine the standard that is necessary to clean up this site. But I believe that it is premature to require anything above a residential standard until the whole site is characterized. Health risks are based upon exposures – if no one ever lives there, the site itself would not require the higher standard of cleanup. What is in many ways more important is to determine what has been buried or has migrated offsite that presents a public health risk to the community. So please do not look at this site in isolation – more than 500,000 people are predicted to be impacted by this site.

“SB 990 states that it was written to protect the public health and safety and the environment. If CEQA and NEPA standards are not implemented here to protect the environment, not only will we lose endangered species, but artifacts from the Chumash people and other prehistoric groups will be lost in the cleanup process.

“Please lock in an agreement with Boeing to cleanup the site to a residential standard and donate it to the State or another entity as parkland with their assurances to continue to maintain the site for at least 30 years. And please set aside part of this property as a “Sacred site” for the Chumash people, and another part as a monument to the work done here to support NASA.”

Bonnie Klea, Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition
“It was so exciting but I was scared because the OTHER activists were working so hard to defeat SB990. Christina asked Dan Hirsch to write a letter stating our position to Secy Adams last week and Adams referred to the letter at least 5 times referring to the long-term activists who worked so hard. That letter seemed to make a large impression. The OTHER anti-activists were Daniel Wiseman, Chris Rowe, JoAnn–all members of the West Hills Neighborhood Council who have been working overtime to promote Boeing’s position. I really thought that this impossible undertaking that we all worked so hard for might not make it and I was worried about seeing Glee in the eyes of the antiactivists. 

“I totally thank Dan Hirsch and Norm Riley for the win because they met with Sec’y Adams personally last week and actually Norm (xoxo) called Christina and said it went very well. I should have had faith.

“Anyway we had the Simi ladies, me, Dan, Christina & Bill, John Luker, Louise Rishoff (Brownley) and Fran Pavley’s new Chief of Staff, Adam Salkin, Dave Einhorn and I already mentioned the other anti-activists. We turned on the telephone and listened to Secy Adams say that the Federal Superfund could give no assurances that they could comply or would comply to SB990 and that they chose to keep control in the state while keeping the option to revisit NPL later if they wished.

“We listened, we won and we were trying so hard not to scream and clap and give dirty ‘I told you so’s’ to the anti-activists.

“Dan Hirsch gave the first thank you with his comments. Then Christina spoke, then Bill Bowling and me followed by the Simi ladies. John Luker gave his support (which surprised me). I said thank you and told about counting dead people in my neighborhood for 15 years and now counting dead workers trying to help worker families get their federal compensation. The Chris Rowe spoke and estimated the real cost to Boeing and NASA on doing an [residential agricultural standard] cleanup (boo hoo). Norm Riley spoke up and said ‘you are wrong.’ No one knows how much Boeing has to pay but they will pay the lion’s share because they own the most land. NASA will pay minimal. Chris said that actually the taxpayers will pay because it is appropriated by Congress but someone said (maybe Norm Riley) said that Boeing made a [multi] billion dollar profit last year and they can afford it. Worst case scenario would cost Boeing $50 million. No one knows yet how much it will cost because site characterization has not yet been done. So the position of the West Hills Neighborhood Council was concern about taxpayers paying.

“Then we had calls coming in from Greig Smiths office, Nicole Bernson (xoxo), Margery Brown, Linda Parks, Simi Valley Mayor, Liz Crawford, Mary Weisbrock who mentioned the defeat of Ahmanson Ranch because of Rocketdyne runoff.

“The Governor’s little tiny Billee Greer, Senior Chief of Staff was lovable. God love her and everyone who worked so long and hard.

“What can fellow Americans learn? DAVID CAN ACTUALLY SLAY GOLIATH. We are the only DOE site in America where activists took control and decided what kind of cleanup was good for California. California is still the leader in making good decisions. All other states watch us. Unfortunately other states did a DOE Accelerated cleanup already.

“Also, at the end of the meeting, all of a sudden Secy Adams announced that Sheila Kuehl just entered her office. Everyone started clapping, we were ecstatic. Sheila spoke briefly. Dan gave all the credit to Sheila. He said that 4 bills lost and she never quit. Makes me want to cry.”

Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles
“Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles is pleased with CalEPA’s decision to recommend non-concurrence with NPL listing at this time and thus ensure that the Santa Susan Field Laboratory is cleaned up to the highest standards possible. We celebrate this decision with impacted community members and activists, and are grateful to those who advocated on their behalf, including Secretary Linda Adams, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, State Senator Fran Pavley, and of course SB 990’s author and champion, Sheila Kuehl.”

24 Years of Award-Winning SSFL/Rocketdyne Reporting
June 1998June 2022