Nearly 15 years ago the Boeing Corporation and the state agency that oversees cleanup of the radioactively and chemically polluted Santa Susana Field Lab signed an agreement that asked Boeing to clean up its portion of the site once known as Rocketdyne.
Now, as Boeing and state officials this week praised their new plan to protect people and the land, a respected expert is among critics who say the company and state moved the goal posts, significantly weakening the promised cleanup.
Among the most outspoken is Dan Hirsch, former director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who reviewed the new 850-page agreement, comparing it to a longstanding 2007 agreement.
“The new cleanup levels are vastly weaker and less protective than the ones promised to uphold” in 2007, he told Los Angeles Daily News.
The 2007 legally binding document required the restoration by 2017 of tainted water and soil in the Simi Hills where nuclear reactor accidents and rocket testing left a disastrous environmental legacy.
But that agreement to clean up the sprawling lands between Simi Valley and Los Angeles was never honored or enforced. The groundwater and soil cleanup never began.
The years of delay drew criticism from government officials, activists who produced an MSNBC film titled In the Dark of the Valley, and highly organized and fearful residents in the area.
On Monday, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control said the agency finally reached a new agreement with Boeing that promises to keep the company accountable.
But Hirsch said he discovered that under the new agreement, the most stringent standards for cleaning up certain dangerous chemicals, long dubbed by experts as the “residential with garden” scenario, have been weakened.
The “residential with garden” refers to environs where families might grow vegetables in their yards — and then unknowingly eat chemically tainted food.
He said changes in the new agreement would allow Boeing to clean up only a fraction of what was required under the old agreement.
For example, the standard for polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, has been weakened 20 times, he said. The standard for chemicals like benzo(a)pyrene has been weakened 237 times while the standard for cleaning benzo[k]fluoranthene is now about 2,000 times lower, he added.
“The change kills people,” he said.
Melissa Bumstead, founder of Parents Against Santa Susana Field Lab and a West Hills resident, said she struggled to “understand why our government agencies would make a deal with Boeing so they can leave dangerous contamination behind.”
Bumstead, whose daughter Grace was diagnosed with rare cancer at age four, added that “these chemicals are classified as ‘carcinogenic’ and ‘toxic’ for a reason. I believe the (Santa Susana Field Lab’s) contamination caused my daughter’s cancer. Our kids won’t be safe until all of the dangerous chemicals are cleaned up.”
On Monday, California Department of Toxic Substances Control Director Dr. Meredith Williams said, “it’s an agreement that provides us with a path for a safe cleanup and thorough cleanup.”
“That’s what we heard from community members that they wanted to see at the site,” Williams …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News
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