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    Environmental Groups Claim NASA Is Reneging On The Santa Susana Field Lab Cleanup Agreement
    By News Staff | April 2nd 2014 01:35 AM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Five environmental groups are alleging that NASA could be about to break the commitments it made in a 2010 agreement to clean up all the detectable contamination at its former Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) rocket testing site in the Simi Hills of California.

    They claim that NASA may be laying the groundwork for a breach by falsely claiming that commenters on its draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the cleanup were evenly divided on whether NASA should live up to its obligations in the cleanup agreements. When pressed by environmental groups to provide actual data to backup such a claim, they say NASA refused, and one of the groups, Consumer Watchdog, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, obtaining all submitted comments.

    Teens Against Toxins reviewed all the comments and tabulated them. The result: over 3000 people submitted comments. 98% called on NASA to comply with the 2010 legal cleanup agreement. 

    "It's not rocket science," said Davis Gortner, of Teens Against Toxins. "More than 3000 people wrote in supporting living up to the cleanup agreement, and about 70 were opposed. That's not 'evenly divided,' that's more than forty-to-one in favor of the promised full cleanup."

    Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker said that NASA appeared to be laying the groundwork to renege on the Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) it signed with the State of California in 2010 promising to clean up the NASA portion of the site to "background" - the level of naturally occurring materials in the environment before any contamination took place.

    Last September, NASA Associate Administrator Richard Keegan testified before Congress that NASA remained committed to the AOC. In response to a question by Congresswoman Julia Brownley, who represents communities near Santa Susana Field Lab and serves on NASA's oversight committee, Keegan said, "NASA is committed to fulfilling our obligations under the AOC."

    In response to a follow-up question from Congresswoman Brownley, Keegan reiterated, "We are committed to the agreement under the AOC."

    At a meeting of the Santa Susana Field Lab Work Group on February 5, NASA SSFL project manager Peter Zorba indicated that the NASA Final EIS on the cleanup would be issued this month. 

    "Should NASA decide to renege on the AOC and renegotiate the cleanup standard in the agreement, a direct threat to public health will remain at a site that has suffered numerous toxic spills, including half a million gallons of the carcinogenic solvent TCE," said Tucker. "Thousands of people will protest such a decision."

    Comments

    While I support cleaning up environmental spills and hazards, and believe in holding corporations accountable for their disasters, the proposed "clean up to background" solution that these 'environmental groups" are rallying for will have dramatic and catastrophic consequences for the local environment and the inhabitants, animal and human, that live there. The remediation that these advocates are supporting is essentially the removal of a mountaintop which is currently populated with numerous wildlife (eagles, many endangered songbirds, butterflies, sages, wild flowers, bobcats, mountains lions, foxes, deer etc). There has been no SCIENTIFIC data that I have seen that supports the necessity of this type of drastic clean up. The perceived necessity seems to stem more from emotion and anger at agencies than actual facts about current risk. Many of the people who are pushing for this clean up to background have never been in this area, do not live adjacent to this area, and will not be affected at all by the devastating effects of the "clean up". It is estimated that 100,000 trucks will be required to remove the two feet of top soil (and all of the animal burrows, wild flowers, sages, living rock, oak trees, chaparral, nests etc) and cart it to a landfill somewhere. This will leave a currently *alive* habitat a *dead* wasteland, and the local human residents will be forced to live with trucks filled with debris driving past pour homes, on 2 lane country roads which is all we have here, for at least a decade. There is more to this issue than anger at agencies. Come see these hills, and the wildlife in them, that you so badly want to destroy. This is not a seething waste pit for only for demolition: These green hills are my home, and the home to millions of other living things which are being used as a political football. A hundred years from now, if "clean up to background" is not modified to a more rational solution (and there ARE other more level headed solutions which have been proposed, just no one seems to be listening) then these acres of wild land will be converted to dead, scraped sandstone, Native American artifacts and petroglyphs (which are abundant in this area) will be permanently destroyed, hundreds, maybe thousands, of majestic and beautiful animals will be eradicated, and a valuable American history (rocket engine test stands) will be gone. Then, when the adamance and passion of current emotions have passed, people will look back at what was and ask, too late, "why couldn't we have agreed to a more humane solution?".