Tougher cleanup standards sought

first_imgAmid continuing concerns that the Santa Susana Field Lab remains contaminated, lawmakers and others are launching a renewed bid to toughen cleanup standards. Activists and local officials have long worried that the planned cleanup of the former nuclear research lab would leave too much contamination on the land, which could ultimately be used as home sites. And with the Department of Energy expected to decommission the site next year, activists fear they are running out of time to change the cleanup standards. “We’re in a crisis on that, and only you elected officials can resolve it,” longtime lab watchdog Dan Hirsch told a group of elected officials gathered Thursday in Calabasas. “If something isn’t done now to stop this, it will be irreversible.” The meeting was called by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, to urge her colleagues to action. “We have it in our power, as federal, state and local lawmakers, to push for a Superfund-level cleanup of SSFL,” she said. Kuehl said evidence shows that the site “remains a dangerous health hazard and, if it were allowed to be converted to residential property, would become an even more severe threat.” Also Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., boosted pressure on Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman to ensure the site cleanup meets environmental standards. In a letter to Bodman, Feinstein demanded a schedule of the close-out of radioactive cleanup and asked for assurances that the agency will comply with tough federal Superfund laws. The federal government reserves Superfund status for the worst of the worst environmental messes. She also said she found the DOE’s recent decision that contaminated areas could be released for unrestricted residential use troubling. “Given DOE’s failure to characterize and clean up the site adequately, I believe residential use without restriction would pose unacceptable risks to the public,” Feinstein wrote. “For the sake of public health and safety, I urge you to reconsider this decision.” Located in the hills above Simi Valley and Chatsworth, the Santa Susana Field Lab was developed in the late 1940s for rocket-engine tests and nuclear energy research. While the DOE cleanup of its 90-acre portion of the lab is nearly complete, the Boeing Co. is at least a decade away from decontamination of the rest of the 290-acre site, which is tainted with chemicals from rocket engine and laser development. A recent UCLA study said the site would not be safe for residential use because of extensive groundwater contamination. Preparing for the day that Boeing could sell the site, Kuehl is trying to pass state legislation that would prohibit any sale until a complete chemical and radioactive cleanup has been completed. Kuehl said while the federal government has authority over the cleanup, the state can exert authority over conditions of the sale or transfer of the property. Kuehl has pushed a similar bill before, as well as several other efforts to encourage better cleanup of the site, but most of those bills have died in the Legislature in the face of strong lobbying efforts by Boeing. Kuehl said she is hopeful a new crop of freshman legislators might be more environmentally conscious and resistant to lobbying pressures. “It really has to do with education,” she said. “It could happen if we can get more light focused on the issue and secure as many votes in the Assembly as we can ahead of time.” Staff writer Harrison Sheppard contributed to this report. [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *