Motion Seeks To Block Santa Susana Field Lab Demolition Work

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A consumer advocacy group has filed for a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent the state from allowing Boeing Co. to conduct cleanup work at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory until an environmental report on the project has been completed.

The motion was filed Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court by a Los Angeles law firm on behalf of Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog.

Last month the group sued the state Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Department of Public Health, claiming that Boeing was being allowed to dismantle structures at the Simi Valley facility and take radioactive debris to facilities not licensed to accept this kind of waste.

Boeing and the DTSC then agreed to halt the work until Sept. 30.

“We are pleased that Boeing and the DTSC have temporarily volunteered to stop endangering the public health,” Consumer Watchdog advocate Liza Tucker said in a statement. “But it’s the state that illegally sanctioned demolition and disposal activities.

“Going forward, we have to make sure that our toxic regulators don’t expose us to radioactive waste, but protect us from it instead by cleaning it up fully and disposing of it properly.”

The group wants a longer stoppage.

“We understand that the environmental report will not be done until 2015 yet they are allowing disposal of debris from the site. There is something very wrong with that picture. It’s going on under the table,” Tucker said in an interview Thursday.

So far a hearing date has not been set, but Tucker hopes it is before Sept. 30.

“We want the court to freeze everything and keep the status quo until we can get a court hearing. We want to make sure that Boeing doesn’t do any more demolition or disposal of radioactive material until we can get a full hearing on our lawsuit,” Tucker said.

The work in question is taking place in Area IV of the field laboratory, a 2,900-acre site in rugged Simi Hills between the Simi and San Fernando valleys. It was primarily a rocket engine test site but Area IV workers conducted energy research involving nuclear, solar and sodium technology development. A sodium nuclear reactor there had a partial meltdown in 1959.

One of the structures demolished was a plutonium fuel fabrication building, according to this week’s court filing.

“The demolition of Area IV structures has the potential to cause significant impact to human health and the environment by releasing previously contained radioactive particles. Moreover, respondents have expressly authorized Boeing to ship the radioactive debris off site for disposal in waste facilities that are neither licensed nor designed to safely dispose of radioactive waste,” the filing said.

A Boeing official on Thursday disputed the claims.

“That is not the case,” said company spokeswoman Megan Hilfer. “The building demolition waste is being properly disposed of at facilities that are permitted to accept this type of waste. It is not low-level radioactive waste.”

The state DTSC could not be reached for comment.

Reach the author at [email protected] or follow Gregory J. on Twitter: @dngregwilcox.

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