Santa Susana Field Laboratory Cleanup Frequently Asked Questions
The Department of Toxic Substances Control is working on ways to improve its public participation outreach efforts on the Santa Susan Field Lab cleanup project. Part of our effort is to become more responsive to numerous questions the public has about the site and ongoing cleanup efforts. For us to try to answer each question individually is impossible, and that can be frustrating for the public whose questions are not answered. Some community members have had to seek answers through other informal information sources.
In an effort to be more proactive and efficient, and to better serve the community, we are turning questions that we receive from individuals in the community into a set of “Frequently Asked Questions.” Our first compilation is listed below. In those you can see that we eliminated reference to those who may have asked the question, and have provided a response that we hope is informative and responsive to the questions. We intend this to be a living and ever-expanding compilation. So if you have additional questions you would like to see included, or a response that you feel needs better explanation, please send that feedback to Michelle Banks-Ordone, DTSC Public Participation and Community Affairs Management, at Michelle.Banks-Ordone@dtsc.ca.gov
Q. Why is DTSC approving a new operator at the Hazardous Waste Management Facility (HWMF) and the Radioactive Materials Handling Facility (RMHF)? What are the implications of this change at the site?
A. The Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) is currently reviewing Class 1* permit modifications for the HWMF and the RMHF. The purpose of the Class 1* modification is to transfer operational control of the two hazardous waste handling facilities from Boeing (the current operator) to North Winds Group (the proposed new operator). The Department of Energy (DOE) owns both facilities (Boeing does own the land that the facilities are built on). In essence, DOE is hiring a new contractor, which is an action that DTSC has authorization under the California Code of Regulations to review. The DOE will continue to be the owner of both facilities, and as such, will continue to be responsible for all site investigation and cleanup activities in accordance with the 2007 Consent Order and the 2010 Administrative Order on Consent (AOC).
Both of the facilities in question, the HWMF and the RMHF, are currently undergoing “closure” and thus are not authorized to accept additional hazardous or radiological waste for treatment, storage or disposal. “Closure” is the act of closing a hazardous waste management facility pursuant to Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requirements; essentially ensuring that the facility is left in a condition that will protect public health and the environment. The closure of both these facilities will comply with RCRA clean closure requirements and the AOC. The RCRA requirements for clean closure are analogous to the investigation and cleanup requirements of the AOC. Thus, contamination will not be left in place at the RMHF or the HWMF once clean closure is complete. The primary reason RCRA comes into play at the HWMF and RMHF, is that they were regulated as permitted units so that EPA and the Department of Public Health (DTSC’s predecessor) could maintain regulatory control over the waste management activities that were historically conducted at the two facilities.
Moving forward, there are no plans to store or treat hazardous waste at Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) except for temporary staging as part of SSFL cleanup activities. Waste (hazardous or otherwise) generated during investigation and cleanup activities at SSFL will be staged and managed in strict accordance with all appropriate generator regulations specific to RCRA. Waste from outside of SSFL will not be staged or transported to SSFL in conjunction with this or any future modification.
On August 6th, 2013, a lawsuit was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court in an attempt to stop demolition of Boeing buildings in Area IV at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) site.
Q. What are the basic allegations in the lawsuit?
A. The filers of the lawsuit are objecting to the demolition and disposal of structures and buildings from Area IV at SSFL. The lawsuit also alleged that demolitions have occurred, under DTSC’s watch, without review of the environmental impacts. In addition, it is alleged that these actions have created a risk of public harm through the disposal of radiologically contaminated material (at levels above background) at sites that are not licensed to receive such materials.
Q. Does DTSC have a response to the allegation that disposal of radioactive structures from SSFL is being taken to facilities that are not licensed to handle radioactive waste?
A. See DTSC’s response.
Q. Does any of the building material demolished and disposed of at SSFL pose a risk to public health or the environment?
A. No, this is a false allegation. In addition, none of the cleanup activities have occurred without required review of the environmental impacts.
Q. What other agencies have aided DTSC in the regulation of SSFL?
A. The U.S. EPA, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have each been involved.
Q. Does DTSC have a statement on the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to stop demolition at SSFL?
A. DTSC intends to file an opposition to the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. This Motion has not been granted yet nor has a hearing date been set for the motion.
Q. Does the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction change the fact that DTSC has agreed to halt any action on Boeing’s Area IV buildings until September 30, 2013? Why has DTSC agreed to halt the action until that time?
A. DTSC and Boeing voluntarily agreed to the moratorium to give the parties time to discuss the petition. This voluntary moratorium agreement is set to last until September 30, 2013, but because it is likely the court will not rule on the Motion until the end of September or sometime in October, the moratorium will be extended until the parties receive a decision on the Motion.
DTSC also received this letter from California’s Attorney General regarding the Sept. 30th date.
NASA Office of Inspector General Audit Report
Q. NASA’s Office of the Inspector General released a report on February 14 about NASA’s cleanup efforts at the Santa Susana Field Lab. What is the purpose of the report?
A. The report is an internal document from NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to NASA management in which the OIG has reviewed NASA’s cleanup commitment at Santa Susana.
Q. What does the report say?
A. The report reviews the cost effectiveness and practicality of an Administrative Order of Consent that NASA management signed, spelling out NASA’s role in the cleanup of Santa Susana. The report does not make any requirements of NASA management.
Q. Will the report impact NASA’s cleanup obligations at Santa Susana?
A. No. In 2010, NASA entered into an Administrative Order of Consent (AOC) with DTSC, agreeing to clean up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site to “background” levels – bringing it to its original state before it was used as a rocket test facility. As a responsible party NASA is legally bound to honor the AOC.
Q. What is DTSC’s response to the audit report?
- DTSC considers the audit premature. Investigation of contamination at Santa Susana is not yet complete, so it is too early to determine the exact methodology and cost of cleanup.
- Findings of the audit have no impact,on NASA’s obligation to honor the AOC.
Q. What is NASA management’s response to the audit report?
A. In a letter to the Office of Inspector General for Audits, NASA management wrote: “Our team will continue to work with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and local community stakeholders within the requirements of the 2010 Administrative Order of Consent (AOC).” DTSC is pleased that it appears NASA is not accepting recommendations of the audit report.
Q. NASA management also mentioned that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is expected to rule early this year on The Boeing Company’s challenge to SB990, a California state law that sets cleanup levels at Santa Susana. Will that ruling impact NASA’s cleanup obligations?
A. No. The AOC, which was entered into separate and apart from SB990, was entered into under authority granted to DTSC pursuant to the State Superfund, specifically Health and Safety Code, section 25355.5(a)(1)(B).
DTSC Public Meeting Ground Rules
Q. Can DTSC restrict a party’s ability to record public meetings held by DTSC?
A. No, DTSC does not have the authority to prevent recording at public meetings. DTSC frequently holds public meetings pursuant to its statutory requirement to provide an opportunity for meaningful public participation in response actions undertaken for sites. (Health & Saf. Code, §25358.7.) DTSC is required to provide those affected by response actions the opportunity to attend and participate at public meetings.
Since DTSC holds meetings open to the public, in attending any public meeting, an individual has no “reasonable expectation of privacy” at the public meeting. Further, DTSC has no authority to restrict an individual’s recording of the public meeting as long as the method of recording is reasonable and not disruptive. If DTSC anticipates that some individuals may not want to be recorded, DTSC will begin any meeting asking that everyone be respectful to one another and those who wish to not be recorded should identify themselves. DTSC does not have the authority to prevent any recording; however, it will ensure that individuals are treated respectfully. Further, DTSC will stop and prevent any harassment that would intimidate people from being involved in a public meeting.
Q. Are DTSC’s public meetings subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Gov. Code, §11120 et seq.) or any other open meeting requirements?
A. No, DTSC’s public meetings are not subject to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Act) or other open meeting requirements.
The Act covers state boards and commissions. Generally, it requires those bodies to publicly notice their meetings, prepare agendas, accept public testimony and conduct their meeting in public. The Act covers multi-member bodies. A multi-member body is two or more people. Examples of multi-member bodies are: state boards, commissions, committees, panels and councils. Second, the body must be created by statute or required by law to conduct official meetings. DTSC’s is a state agency created by the Legislature. (Health & Saf. Code, §58000 et seq.) DTSC is not a “state body” subject to the Act. Instead, as noted above, DTSC is required to hold public meetings pursuant to its statutory requirement to provide an opportunity for meaningful public participation in response actions undertaken for sites. (Health & Saf. Code, §25358.7.) DTSC is required to provide those affected by response actions the opportunity to attend and participate at public meetings; however, it is not subject to the Act or any other open meeting requirements.
Involvement of Former Employees
Q. Can DTSC prohibit or prevent former employees from representing responsible parties or other private companies on matters that are before DTSC?
A. As long as former DTSC and Cal/EPA employees comply with all legal limitations regarding their relationship with their former department, they have a right to gainful legal employment and have a right to represent any client’s interests before DTSC.
Q. How does DTSC prevent former employees from having undue influence over its decisions and instill public confidence in its decisions?
A. Former DTSC and Cal/EPA employees representing outside interests before their former colleagues can create inaccurate perceptions. However, they do not and cannot have influence on department decisions. Public confidence in DTSC and its public health and environmental protection role demand it. DTSC management and staff are committed to this standard.
Changing Project Staff
Q. Who is the new Project Director for the SSFL Project?
A. Raymond Leclerc has been selected to serve as the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s Project Director responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Administrative Order on Consent for Remediation Action for the the Santa Susana Field Lab Project.
Ray is Assistant Deputy Project Director in the Brownfields and Environmental Cleanup Program and is a registered civil engineer with over 25 years of experience in hazardous waste management, cleanup and restoration of contaminated sites in California. His experience and position as part of DTSC’s Executive Leadership Team make him an invaluable asset to DTSC who will help to move the SSFL Project forward.
Rick Brausch will remain as an advisor for the project. Rick’s expertise, strategic capacity, and network of relationships in the legislative arena have served the project well these past few years.
Q. Why is Rick Brausch no longer the SSFL Project Director?
A. Rick Brausch’s role has changed over the past year primarily because his skills and abilities have been needed in other aspects of DTSC. Although he no longer holds a title of “Project Director,” his role as a project advisor will continue.
Q. Rick Brausch is the only one on DTSC’s executive management team that helped negotiate the AOCs. How does DTSC ensure the consistent interpretation and application of the AOCs?
A. Rick Brausch is an invaluable resource to the entire project team. His leadership, advice and vision on this project have guided the negotiation of the Agreements of Consent (AOCs) and the investigation and cleanup efforts at SSFL through many challenges. The project team will continue to look to him for guidance and advice on the implementation of the AOCs and the many facets of this project.
Q. Does DTSC change key project staff on other projects like SSFL?
A. DTSC assigns a staff member based on their expertise and the need for that expertise on a project. Sometimes this means shifting staff members between projects.
Q. How does DTSC ensure continuity of decisions and meeting project deadlines in a long-term project such as the cleanup of SSFL?
A. A: DTSC taps the department’s institutional knowledge and expertise on all cleanup projects, and a project record is maintained. In the case of the SSFL cleanup, Rick consults on a regular basis with Project Manager Mark Malinowski, Deputy Director Stewart Black and others on the team. That will continue. It is essential the technical project team is provided the resource, technical and managerial support needed to manage a project of this complexity with a project team this large and diverse, to accomplish an aggressive 2017 project deadline. More generally speaking, DTSC maintains continuity on long-term projects in a systemic way. Continuity comes from good record keeping and strong, engaged management who support consistent decision making and policy objectives. The success of a project is not based on an individual. We operate as a department with management providing clear direction to knowledgeable technical staff.
Q. How many staff members does DTSC have assigned to work on the SSFL project?
A. SSFL is a priority cleanup site for DTSC. There are 22 DTSC staff members working on the cleanup of this site, far more than any other DTSC cleanup project in the history of the department. This does not include the staff who contribute to this effort from other regulatory agencies, including the regional water quality control board and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
Q. How are CEQA documents prepared for projects that DTSC oversees? If it is DTSC’s responsibility to conduct a CEQA analysis, why does DTSC have responsible parties involved in a contract with a CEQA consultant?
A. DTSC is the Lead Agency for all of the cleanup activities to be conducted at SSFL under CEQA, and DTSC has determined that an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) will be required. Under the state regulations that govern the CEQA process (the CEQA guidelines) a Lead Agency is authorized to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (or Memorandum of Agreement) with the applicant to govern the preparation of a draft EIR, or similar environmental analysis, by an independent contractor. In this case, DTSC executed a Memorandum of Agreement with The Boeing Company (Boeing), as the principle landowner, while the federal agencies are responsible for their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis.
Q. How does DTSC prevent the responsible party from influencing the CEQA consultant? How does DTSC ensure that the analysis prepared by the CEQA consultant isn’t influenced by the responsible party that is paying the bills?
A. Boeing only pays the bills – the consultant reports to and takes direction only from DTSC. DTSC is sensitive to concerns that any responsible party might be able to influence or control an analysis as important as an EIR. In the case of the planned EIR for SSFL, DTSC ensures, through the terms of a Memorandum of Agreement, that DTSC is making the decisions, even if the consultant performing the EIR receives reimbursement from Boeing. That MOA clearly lays out the reimbursement relationship between Boeing and the consultant and the contractual reporting relationship between DTSC and the consultant, and limits the contact and communication between Boeing and the consultant. DTSC has used this mechanism successfully at many of its cleanup sites, and is confident that the MOA and the exclusion of Boeing – or any responsible parties – from the CEQA work products and decision making will continue to prevent Boeing from having any influence over DTSC’s decisions. In addition, all CEQA documents are public records and will be made available for public review.
Q. What consultant was selected to prepare CEQA documents for SSFL?
A. DTSC chose to perform the CEQA work in two stages: the first to devise a strategy for managing the numerous individual parts of a complex cleanup that could accommodate different timing for each piece but that could also manage the cumulative impacts of all activities combined. For this first phase, DTSC chose a consultant, AECOM, to provide recommendations for how to prepare the EIR for the SSFL cleanup. DTSC is currently negotiating a second Memorandum of Agreement with Boeing to secure a consultant to prepare the actual EIR documents.
Q. We heard that Boeing violated the Memorandum of Agreement and selected AECOM, a consultant they liked, rather than letting DTSC select a contractor on its own. Is that true?
A. A: After DTSC signed the original Memorandum of Agreement with Boeing, Boeing took it upon itself to identify and suggest a list of consultants they felt were qualified to perform the work. Independently, Mark Malinowski, DTSC’s SSFL Project Manager, had been asking other project managers in DTSC for a list of consultants with which we have had successful relationships on similar CEQA efforts. Mark also developed a set of criteria that DTSC used to assess the qualifications of the consultants being considered. AECOM, the consultant that DTSC identified, met DTSC’s evaluation criteria, even though it was on both the DTSC list and the Boeing list. Regardless of the selection process, the Memorandum of Agreement prevented Boeing from having any further role with AECOM and its work, and DTSC is confident that the recommendations provided by AECOM were not influenced by Boeing or the other responsible parties.
Q. Why doesn’t DTSC continue to operate the Interagency Workgroup as USEPA has in the past?
A. The Workgroup has served an important role for more than 20 years, but there are some fundamental changes DTSC needs to make to its involvement with this group. We have asked the group’s community members to become a community-led group rather than being led by the oversight agency. DTSC has met with the community members of the Workgroup to share our thinking with them and to offer to negotiate a positive working relationship for the future.
Q. What is a Community Advisory Group?
A. The purpose of a Community Advisory Group (CAG) is to provide the community another arena to discuss issues and concerns relating to environmental projects under DTSC’s direct oversight.
Q. Is DTSC required to help the community form a CAG? Who pays for the CAG?
A. Because DTSC received a valid petition to form a CAG from members of the SSFL community, we are legally obligated to assist in its formation. Proponents of a CAG initially submitted an online petition to DTSC. Since then, we have received a second CAG petition that clearly stated its purpose and contained physical signatures from more than 70 people who live in and near the community. Well over 50 of those signatures were from addresses within a short distance of the site. Our Public Participation Specialist Supervisor assigned to the project has reviewed the petition and determined that it meets the requirements in law. The CAG is responsible for securing its own funding and meeting venues. DTSC will contribute two email meeting announcements for the group each year and participate in the meetings.
Q. Who can be on the CAG? Are the same people who signed a petition automatically on the CAG? Who decides? And how many people can be on the CAG?
A. A: A CAG is made up of members who represent the diverse interests of the community including political or local government agency representatives, environmental groups, community groups and the general public. The California Health and Safety Code outlines how a CAG will form and who will be on it. The size depends on the community interest and complexity of the community. There is no set number for membership.
Q. Who is in charge of the CAG? Who runs the meetings? Who sets the agenda? Is DTSC required to attend the CAG meeting?
A. Members of the CAG will elect a Chairperson who will run meetings and work with members to set the agenda. DTSC is required to a serve as resource for the CAG.
Q. Why doesn’t DTSC continue to operate the Public Participation Group instead of helping to form a CAG?
A. Because DTSC resources are limited and since the roles and goals of a CAG and the PPG are nearly identical, it does not make sense for us to continue to operate the PPG. We have notified its members that DTSC will discontinue PPG meetings. The CAG is to be community led, not managed by DTSC.
Q. With such a technically complex project like the cleanup of SSFL, with the amount of activities going on to meet a 2017 cleanup deadline, how can the community hope to keep up with the project?
A. We feel that the modified Workgroup, the CAG and other outreach activities meet the information and interaction needs of the community. DTSC plans to continue its many other information sharing efforts (technical roundtable discussions, open houses, community meetings, monthly updates, etc.). These efforts will provide members of the community with information about ongoing site investigation and cleanup activities as well as an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. In addition, we plan to enhance our website and provide more information via electronic mail.
Q. What is DTSC’s response to concerns by neighbors and community members that historic releases of contaminants from SSFL and from recent clean-up operations have caused cancer in local residents and users of the nearby Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park?
A. DTSC has conducted extensive reviews of environmental data relating to the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, including data collected by other government agencies, such as USEPA. These data include environmental measurements relating to air, soil, groundwater, surface water, and drinking water. To date, DTSC has not found any evidence of off-site contamination from the SSFL that has posed or would pose a risk to users of the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park or residents of neighborhoods near the SSFL.
Q. Is there a higher risk of cancers around the Santa Susana Field Laboratory?
A. Several health studies and data assessments have been performed on communities surrounding SSFL. See DTSC’s summary of the findings document.
View the full report entitled “Summary of Cancer Study and Exposure Assessment Activities related to the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (Rocketdyne) Site.”