A consumer group charged Thursday that Boeing lobbyists persuaded the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to abandon a planned full cleanup of Boeing’s portion of the Santa Susana Field Lab, site of a 1959 partial nuclear meltdown.
“Boeing accomplished this reversal by employing fixers to ensure that government officials would change course and allow most of the contamination to be left behind,” the Consumer Watchdog group alleged in a report titled “Inside Job: How Boeing fixers captured regulators and derailed a nuclear and chemical cleanup.”
Tamma Adamek, a spokeswoman for the toxic substances control department, called the report “fundamentally flawed,” saying “its selective review of the record misconstrues DTSC’s actions.
“The department is committed to a complete, science-based cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site that fully protects public health and the environment as required by California law,” she said.
Boeing also remains committed to a 2007 comprehensive cleanup agreement it signed with the toxic substances control department, company spokeswoman Megan Hilfer said.
“Like almost all major companies, Boeing uses multiple experts, legal counsel and consultants to help develop the best solutions for local issues,” she said.
“They were hired to help us share Boeing’s cleanup progress and future open space vision at the local, state and national levels.
“We are proud of the actions we’ve taken to clean up Santa Susana,” she said. “Our cleanup provides 10 times more safety than what’s required for its future as open space while protecting human health and the environment.”
Boeing owns most of the 2,850-acre site east of Simi Valley, formerly the Rocketdyne nuclear and rocket engine test facility. The rest of the site, about 451 acres, is owned by the federal government and administered by NASA.
Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog said its report is based on documents it obtained through public records requests and interviews with insiders and legislative staffers. The group sued the state toxic substances control and public health departments last year in connection with the cleanup.
The report says that in 2007, California passed a law mandating that the three parties responsible for the site — Boeing, NASA and the federal Department of Energy — clean it to the most protective standard for human health.
In 2010, as part of the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the toxic substances control department signed agreements that bound NASA and the federal Department of Energy to a full cleanup, says the report, released at a news conference in Santa Monica.
However, when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Debbie Raphael director of the toxic substances control department in 2011, “a thorough cleanup … was abandoned to the detriment of public health,” the report says.
“Boeing captured DTSC, including Raphael, with help from former government officials … to pressure their own former subordinates to reverse cleanup,” the report says.
The department has accepted Boeing’s “far lower” cleanup standards, Liza Tucker, author of the report, said. “NASA and DOE are still obligated to clean their parts of the site up to the strictest standards.”
NASA announced May 1 that it plans to demolish test stands and other structures on its portion of the site as part of the cleanup of the soil and groundwater. The alternative was to do nothing, a possibility some cleanup activists feared.
That same day, in a move lauded by cleanup activists, Raphael announced her resignation.
“Gov. Brown may not be aware of anything that took place in this report,” Tucker said at the news conference. The report calls on Brown to quickly choose a successor to Raphael from outside the toxic substances control department and the California Environmental Protection Agency.
“This director must be unafraid to replace managers who are more interested in protecting the wallets of polluters than they are in protecting the public health,” the report says.
A Brown spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The report can be found at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/InsideJob.pdf