Field lab finally on EPA radar

11 Jan 2020 admin

first_img“We definitely want it to be a Superfund site, because it is,” said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles. “I’m very happy that the EPA is going to assess the site again, with an eye toward whether it can be declared a Superfund site.” Kuehl has pushed for the highest cleanup standards at the lab. She has legislation pending that would add the lab to the state’s Superfund list and prohibit Boeing from selling the property until the state director of Toxic Substances Control certifies that contamination has been completely remedied. Boeing spokeswoman Blythe Jameson said the company is working closely with all the regulatory agencies on site decontamination. “All the radiological and chemical cleanups that the company has undertaken throughout the site continue to follow standards that have been carefully set by scientists and engineers and are fully protective of public health and safety,” Jameson said. One of the big controversies surrounding the lab is decontamination of the former Energy Technology and Engineering Center, where the federal government developed nuclear reactors – and where one had a partial meltdown in 1959. Critics of the DOE said the agency’s proposed cleanup would leave 99 percent of the tainted soil on site, and Boeing could eventually sell the property for residential use. In 2003, the EPA said there hadn’t been enough analysis of the site and the cleanup would leave the site unsafe for anything but limited picnicking and camping. At the same time, however, EPA officials said the former nuclear-research portion of the lab did not qualify for Superfund status because nobody lived on site and few people were in immediate risk from the contamination. Similarly, in 1987, the EPA said the field lab didn’t score high enough on its hazard-ranking system to qualify for the National Priorities List. At that time, however, the EPA did not consider radiological contamination on site, only the toxic chemical pollution. This time, the EPA’s Curnow said, the agency will consider the entire lab and all chemical and radiological contamination. EPA officials will score the site based on contamination and how many people might have been exposed if pollutants moved off site. If the site scores high enough, it will be considered for inclusion on the National Priorities List. Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks, has long sought EPA involvement in the site cleanup and praised the EPA for its decision Thursday. “My goal has always been to have the site cleaned to the highest standard possible in a timely and complete manner,” Gallegly said in a written statement. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the agency’s decision to reconsider the lab is long overdue. “Now the EPA should as quickly as possible ensure that public health is protected by using the best information to make its decisions, not old or inadequate data that could mask the dangers posed by radiation and chemicals at the site,” she said. 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! “Given all the community concerns about this site and the fact that it’s not being studied and cleaned up under Superfund, this would be appropriate to go back and look at the whole site.” Longtime field lab watchdogs hailed the EPA’s decision but remained wary Thursday, noting that the agency has twice previously rejected the lab site for Superfund status. “I’m hopeful and cautious at the same time,” said Dan Hirsch of the Committee to Bridge the Gap. “On the face of it, it’s positive. EPA has recognized, belatedly, that the site should be looked at as a whole. But twice before they’ve declined to list it, so there has to be some skepticism about why they’re doing it now.” Activists have pushed for EPA Superfund status so one agency would supervise and coordinate cleanup of the 290-acre lab, owned by Boeing Co. Currently, regulation of the field lab cleanup is divided among several agencies. The Department of Energy oversees its own cleanup of the former nuclear research section of the lab. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control is responsible for monitoring chemical cleanup on the site, and the state’s Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board monitors surface water flowing off the lab. Twenty years after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first refused to designate the Santa Susana Field Lab as a high-priority cleanup site, the federal agency said Thursday that it is now reconsidering its decision. In a move long sought by community activists, the EPA said it will reassess testing data from recent years and, if necessary, conduct further analysis to determine whether the lab qualifies for the National Priorities List, also called the Superfund program. Reserved for the worst-contaminated sites, Superfund status would give the EPA authority to conduct a new investigation and oversee cleanup at the hilltop lab. “What we’ve heard from the community for many years is that they’re concerned that the site isn’t being addressed as a whole under Superfund,” said Betsy Curnow, chief of the EPA’s regional site assessment section. last_img

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