News Column

California Sued Over Nuclear Waste Dumping

August 7, 2013

A consumer group Tuesday sued the state over allegations that it is allowing Boeing to demolish radiation-contaminated structures at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and dispose of the debris at sites not licensed to receive radioactive waste.

Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit group, sued the state toxic substances control and public health departments in Sacramento County Superior Court, seeking to halt the alleged practice.

"Respondents are expressly approving Boeing's disposal of this radiologically contaminated waste off site to toxic waste facilities that are neither licensed, nor designed, to accept radiologic material," the suit states. "Many tons of these materials have been sent to recycling facilities so that they enter the commercial metal supply."

Department of Toxic Substances Control officials Tuesday said in a conference call with reporters that the allegations are not true.

"It is very important to set the record straight," said Stewart Black, deputy director of the department's Brownfields and Environmental Restoration division. "I want to be very clear that the allegations ... are not only false, but I think ... reprehensible."

Consumer Watchdog leveled the accusations Monday, giving the state 24 hours to stop the alleged practice or face legal action. The group said in a news release that it uncovered the practice at the field lab in the hills outside Simi Valley, the site of a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959. Boeing owns most of the 2,850-acre site, formerly the Rocketdyne nuclear and rocket engine test facility.

Black said scientific evidence refutes the charges.

"It's irrefutable ... in my opinion," he said. "None of the Boeing building material that has been disposed of to date poses a threat to human health or the environment."

Black said that conclusion is based on a review by his department -- the lead regulatory agency overseeing the investigation and planned cleanup of the site -- plus the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Black said his agency and all other parties involved in the planned cleanup are following all relevant laws.

"The safety and care that we implement as we're overseeing cleanups at sites like Santa Susana are extremely important to us, and we take that responsibility very seriously," he said.

Consumer Watchdog's accusations "are generating a significant amount of what I consider to be unnecessary fear in Southern California communities," he said.

Consumer Watchdog's Liza Tucker disagreed. "These are regulators who are trying to say that basically, there is a safe level of radioactive contamination," she said. "There isn't."

Boeing officials say the soil cleanup is expected to begin in late 2015 or early 2016 and be completed by the end of June 2017. The groundwater cleanup could take centuries. The rest of the site is owned by the federal government and administered by NASA.


(c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

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Source: Copyright Ventura County Star (CA) 2013

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