Water Board approves deal with Boeing on toxic site

Despite sharp objections from neighbors and environmentalists, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board voted unanimously Thursday to approve a deal with the Boeing Company that seeks to ensure that polluted stormwater still remains after the company. Not flowing into the local creeks and the Los Angeles River. The notoriously toxic Santa Susanna cleans up the field laboratory.

The agreement requires Boeing to monitor drainage in the Calaguas Creek watershed for 195 contaminants after the company completed the cleanup of a 2,850-acre site atop a plateau in southeastern Ventura County. Boeing must test for contaminants in waterway outflows for at least 12 hurricane events to ensure that the levels of pollutants will not violate federal water quality standards or background levels. Later, the Water Board may decide to exempt Boeing from these regulations if it considers that the area is no longer a risk to public health or the environment.

Following the industrial activities of Boeing, rocket maker Rocketdyne, NASA and the US Department of Energy, the field lab grounds are filled with heavy metals and radioactive contaminants, serving as a proving ground for rocket engines for space exploration and nuclear reactors to power. I used to use the site. second World War. These contaminants – including brain-damaging lead and potent carcinogens – have moved out of the site and have been seen in local creeks that feed into the Los Angeles River.

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

The state’s Toxic Substance Control Department is the agency responsible for overseeing the treatment of the company’s soil and groundwater. Cleaning standards are still to be determined, but the work could take 10 to 15 years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, regardless of the soil excavation and removal scenario.

Thursday’s vote was seen by many agency chiefs as a victory and as a means to limit further delays resulting from litigation.

“Today’s vote paves the way for a stringent clean-up at one of the most polluted sites in the country and is a significant step forward after decades of stalled progress,” DTSC Director Meredith Williams said in a statement. “DTSC is grateful for the careful consideration of the Jal Board and looks forward to working together to complete this cleanup.”

The Water Board has historically imposed fines against Boeing for discharging contaminated water found near the site. In November 2018, nearly 80% of the Santa Susana Field Lab site burned as a wildfire ripped through Woolsey Canyon, one of the most devastating wildfires in LA County history. Shortly after, it rained across the region and surveillance found unsafe levels of several pollutants, including cyanide, copper, lead, arsenic and dioxin. Boeing paid $25,750 for elevated levels of TCDD, a potent cancer-causing dioxin.

Boeing entered into legal agreements, known as conservation easements, to permanently dedicate approximately 2,400 acres as natural habitat, restricting residential development, groundwater consumption and agricultural land use.

California Environmental Protection Agency administrator Jared Blumenfeld and a representative for Boeing asked the water board to approve a memorandum of understanding to advance long-delayed cleanup efforts. Industrial operations at the field lab ceased in 2006.

“We did not enter into arbitration with Boeing to settle — and for the record, I never shy away from taking legal action against polluters,” Blumenfeld said.

However, it also ran for hours of testimony by elected officials, environmental organizations and residents urging the board to postpone or reject the agreement, which many argue was insufficient because it monitors and regulates only a fraction of the heritage pollutants at the site. Will do The agreement was largely waived for the duration and scope of the trial. Some were concerned about Boeing administering the test. There are over 300 pollutants in soil, groundwater and surface water, though Jal Board officials said not all are at the level of concern. Mandatory 12 hurricane events are estimated to occur over five years, some of which were found to be insufficient.

“This repeal of water pollution restrictions is similar to an old medical adage, ‘You can’t get a fever if you don’t check the temperature,'” says Dr. Robert Dodge, a family physician in Ventura County and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. of board. “How is it possible to relieve the Responsible Parties from their obligation to continuously monitor and control the promised cleanup and release of these materials?”

About 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 of Santa Susana Field Lab, says her group has independently identified 81 cases of pediatric cancer within a 10-mile radius.

“We certainly don’t want toxic chemicals in our children’s water,” said Bumstead, whose daughter was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia in 2014. “We want their water to be as safe as possible. Regardless of whether Boeing finds it convenient or not. Our children eat fruits and vegetables grown in water that may be polluted by SSFL. They drink water, bathe in it, Cook with it and play with it. Having safe, clean water is important 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 Am. This is our house. A quick but weak cleaning doesn’t help us.”

From the first manned space flight to the Apollo moon landing, Boeing officials say nearly every major US space program attributes its success to research and development conducted in the Santa Susana Mountains.

But the community members wanted the Jal Board to consider the toll it has taken.

Ahead of the board vote, Marissa Lopez shared photos of her teenage daughter, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, who had to undergo surgery and endure 45 rounds of radiation.

“Nobody should have to go through this,” Lopez said. “And if it can happen to our family, it can happen to you too. I am sharing my daughter’s story because I want you to understand that your decision today will affect real people like my daughter.… She is not a statistic, and she is not an acceptable risk. ,

Leave a Comment