Consumer Group Asks Judge To Halt Radiation Cleanup At Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Published on

The nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog is asking a Sacramento judge to halt the demolition and removal of buildings and contaminated waste from an area of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory used as a nuclear test site.

Boeing Co., which owns most of the 2,800-acre site in the hills south of Simi Valley, and the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup of radioactive and chemical contamination at the lab, had agreed to stop demolition work until Sept. 30.

But Liza Tucker, a consumer advocate, said Consumer Watchdog doesn't know whether the aeronautics company and toxic substances department will stick to their self-imposed moratorium on demolition and truck debris to dumps not specially licensed to receive debris with radiation contamination.

That claim is at the center of a lawsuit the consumer group and other environmental and health organizations filed last month.

In addition, the Santa Monica-based group wants a judge-ordered injunction because it says the state has violated California's Environmental Quality Act by allowing the demolition and debris removal from the nuclear test site called Area IV.

If the injunction is granted, it would halt work until the allegations in the August lawsuit are resolved in Sacramento County Superior Court.

A toxic substances department representative called the allegations false and reprehensible when the lawsuit was filed. On Thursday, Boeing officials echoed the state's position on the nonprofit's claims.

"None of the building material demolished and disposed of under DTSC's oversight from Area IV or any other portion of the SSFL site poses a risk to public health or the environment," a statement released by Boeing says. "In addition, none of the cleanup activities has occurred without required review of the environmental impacts."

A spokesman with the state agency wrote in an email that the department will file an opposition to the preliminary injunction motion.

Boeing and the state agreed to the moratorium to give the parties time to discuss the petition.

The moratorium will be extended until a decision is made on the injunction motion, agency spokesman Russ Edmonson wrote in an email.

As part of its motion, Consumer Watchdog also submitted a declaration by Arnold Gunderson, a nuclear engineer, who wrote that the demolition of structures in the nuclear test site area and disposal threatens the environment and the public.

Gunderson based his conclusions on documents from Boeing and a study of demolition and disposal at the field lab done by Dan Hirsch and Ethan Miska of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a fellow plaintiff on the injunction motion. Hirsch has been a vocal field lab critic for more than 20 years. His study states that Boeing used questionable procedures to measure radiation and that most of the material taken to dumps was contaminated.

Boeing countered that federal and state agencies cleared the former radiological buildings for unrestricted use, meaning the demolition debris is safe to take to landfills and recycling facilities.

A date for the court hearing on the preliminary injunction motion has not been set.

Other Litigation Areas

Latest Litigation Articles

Litigation In The News

Support Consumer Watchdog

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, press releases and special reports.

More Litigation articles