Water board approves agreement with Boeing over toxic site

Despite fierce objections from neighbors and environmentalists, the Los Angeles Area Water Quality Control Board on Thursday unanimously approved an agreement with Boeing Company to ensure rainwater protection. Air pollution still flows into local creeks and the Los Angeles River after the company cleaned up the notoriously toxic Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

The agreement requires Boeing to monitor stormwater runoff into the Calleguas Creek Basin for 195 pollutants after the company completed a cleanup of 2,850 acres on a plateau in southeastern Ventura County. Boeing will have to test for contaminants in storm drains during at least 12 storms to make sure contamination levels don’t violate federal water quality standards or background levels. The country’s governing board can then decide to remove Boeing from these regulations if it deems the area no longer a risk to public health or the environment.

The field laboratory campus is laced with heavy metals and radioactive contaminants following industrial operations by Boeing, rocket maker Rocketdyne, NASA and the US Department of Energy, which used the site as a proving ground for rocket engines for space exploration and nuclear reactors for power after World War II. These pollutants – including brain-damaging lead and potent carcinogens – migrated away from the site and were observed in local creeks that emptied into the Los Angeles River.

Boeing, NASA and the Department of Energy are each responsible for cleaning up different areas of the site. These parties and the state entered into a 2007 consent decree, which required them to clean up the site and reduce the cancer risk for 1 additional cancer case per 1 million contacts. However, the health risks depend on how the site is used, and legal disputes over cleaning standards have caused significant delays.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control is the agency responsible for overseeing the company’s disposal of soil and groundwater. The cleanup standard has yet to be decided, but the work could take 10 to 15 years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars regardless of excavation and soil removal scenario.

Thursday’s vote was seen by many agency heads as a victory and a means of limiting further delays that could lead to litigation.

“Today’s vote clears the way for a rigorous cleanup at one of the nation’s most polluted sites and is a spectacular step forward after decades of stalled progress,” said DTSC Director Meredith Williams. said in a statement. “DTSC appreciates the careful consideration of the Water Management Board and looks forward to working together to get this cleanup completed.”

The water commission previously fined Boeing for the release of contaminated water found near the site. In November 2018, approximately 80% of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site burned as wildfires raced through Woolsey Canyon, one of the most destructive wildfires in LA County history. Not long after, rain swept the area and monitoring found unsafe levels of several pollutants, including cyanide, copper, lead, arsenic and dioxins. Boeing paid $25,750 for elevated levels of TCDD, a potentially carcinogenic dioxin.

Boeing has entered into legal agreements, known as conservation measures, that permanently set aside nearly 2,400 acres as natural habitat, banning residential development, groundwater consumption, and agricultural land use.

The water council vote comes after California Environmental Protection Agency administrator Jared Blumenfeld and a Boeing representative begged the water board to adopt a memorandum of understanding to advance efforts. cleanup was long delayed. Industrial operations at the field laboratory were discontinued in 2006.

“We do not enter into mediation with Boeing for the sake of compromise – and for the record, I have never been afraid to take legal action against polluters,” Blumenfeld said.

However, it also runs counter to hourly testimony from elected officials, environmental groups and residents urging the board to postpone or reject the deal, which many consider insufficient because it will monitor and regulate only a small fraction of the heritage pollutants on site. The deal was largely overstretched in terms of time and scope of testing. Some are concerned about Boeing conducting the test. There are more than 300 contaminants in soil, groundwater and surface water, though water board officials say not all are at levels of concern. The 12 mandatory storms are estimated to occur in 5 years, some of which are not enough.

Dr. Robert Dodge, a family physician in Ventura County and member of the board of physicians for social responsibility. “How do the responsible parties reduce their obligations for the promised cleanup and continue to monitor and control the release of this content?”

Approximately 700,000 people live within 10 miles of the site in Chatsworth, West Hills, Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Westlake Village and Simi Valley.

Melissa Bumstead, a West Hills resident and founder of Parents Against Santa Susana Field Laboratory, said her team independently identified 81 cases of childhood cancer within a 10-mile radius.

Bumstead, whose daughter was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia in 2014. “We want our children’s water to have toxic chemicals,” says: “We want their water to be as safe as possible. all the better. Regardless of whether Boeing finds that convenient or not. Our children eat fruits and vegetables grown in water that may be contaminated by SSFL. They drink water, bathe in it, cook with it and play with it. Having clean, safe water is vital to their health and quality of life. And our children’s lives are more important than politics or Boeing’s profit margins. We live here. I live here. This is our home. The faster but weaker cleanup didn’t help us at all.”

From the first human spaceflight to the Apollo moon landing, Boeing officials say almost every major US space program is down to the success of research and development carried out. present in the Santa Susana Mountains.

But community members want the water management board to consider the fees it has to pay.

Ahead of the board vote, Marisa Lopez shared pictures of her teenage daughter who was diagnosed with brain cancer, had surgery and endured 45 rounds of radiation.

“Nobody has to go through this,” Lopez said. “And if it can happen to our family, it can happen to yours. I share my daughter’s story because I want her to understand that her decisions today will affect real people like my daughter.… She is not a statistic, and it is not. an acceptable risk”.

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-08-11/water-board-approves-agreement-with-boeing-over-toxic-site Water board approves agreement with Boeing over toxic site

Edmund DeMarche

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