2017-01-20 / Front Page

Report details impacts of Area IV cleanup

DOE outlines options for clearing contamination
By Melissa Simon

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a proposal on how it would like to clean up a portion of Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Lab.

Area IV, which is part of the 80 percent of the field lab belonging to Boeing Co., was the site of a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959. The federal government owns the remaining 20 percent of the 2,850-acre field lab in the hills of Simi Valley.

In a draft environmental impact statement released Jan. 6, the DOE outlines several goals: demolish and remove 18 structures in Area IV; remediate chemically contaminated soil and groundwater in Area IV and a buffer zone to the north; and restore the environment.

The statement suggests multiple alternatives to address each goal.

For example, one option for dealing with contaminated soil is to clean the area to background standards, meaning all unnatural material is removed. The other two options involve varying degrees of clearing out any soil that has been contaminated by certain chemicals affecting human health, said John Jones, DOE spokesperson.

With regard to groundwater, one alternative is to install wells and simply monitor the natural degradation of chemicals, while another option calls for treating the groundwater.

Jones said all the alternatives follow the 2010 cleanup agreement signed by the DOE, Department of Toxic Substances Control, NASA and Boeing, all of which are responsible for cleaning up portions of the field lab.

“We’re really happy to finally get this (statement) out,” Jones said. “It really is a culmination of years of study (that) helps us understand the environmental impacts . . . and evaluate what we have to do moving forward.”

Denise Duffield, an activist lobbying for complete cleanup of SSFL to background standards, argues that the DOE’s statement breaks its commitment to clean all detectable contamination as outlined in the 2010 agreement.

“None of these (options) are anywhere near sufficiently protective of public health,” Duffield said. “All will result in dangerous . . . and toxic chemicals remaining on the site where they can continue to migrate off-site and impact nearby communities.”

Duffield asserts any of the options would still leave 34 to 94 percent of contamination on-site.

“DOE has essentially green-washed the (environmental impact statement) by claiming that a protective cleanup poses undue harm to the environment and that the contamination poses little risk.”

Jones said he does not agree with Duffield’s assertions when it comes to potential contamination left behind.

DOE’s statement estimates that 1.4 million cubic yards of soil will potentially have to be removed from the site, he said. But, state and federal laws protecting endangered species has reduced that number to about 1 million cubic yards.

“I don’t think (Duffield) understands what those numbers are saying,” Jones said. “Those exceptions are identified in the (2010 agreement). It says we will protect endangered species, and that’s what this does.

“All these alternatives are protective of human health and the environment. That is really the essence of all these alternatives. (The statement) doesn’t in any way go against our mission, which in the end is to protect public health and the environment.”

Jones said the DOE will hold public hearings on Feb. 18 and Feb. 21 to garner community feedback on the informational report, which is a crucial step in getting to a final cleanup document.

The 2,850-acre field lab has been used since 1947 as a nuclear test site and for research in the development of ballistic missiles, rockets and space shuttle equipment.

Cleanup at the site began in 2010, with NASA overseeing the federal government’s portion, and the DOE and DTSC managing Boeing’s portion.

To view the full environmental report and submit comments online, visit www.ssflareaiveis.com.

The public comment period will remain open until March 14.

IN A NUTSHELL

The U.S. Department of Energy will hold the following public hearings to take comments on its draft environmental impact statement: 9 a.m. to noon, Feb. 18 at the Grand Vista Hotel, 999 Enchanted Way, Simi Valley. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Airtel Plaza Hotel, 7277 Valjean Ave., Van Nuys.

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