2014-08-14 / Front Page

Route for toxic waste removal could pass through T.O.

By Gabrielle Moreira


WHERE WILL THE TRUCKS GO?—As cleanup continues in the Santa Susana Field Lab, shown above, decisions must be made on how the contaminated soil will be removed. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers WHERE WILL THE TRUCKS GO?—As cleanup continues in the Santa Susana Field Lab, shown above, decisions must be made on how the contaminated soil will be removed. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Officials at the Department of Toxic Substances Control are unsure of whether the cleanup of contaminated soil at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory will be completed by a deadline that is now less than three years away.

The June 2017 target date was mandated by consent order in 2007 between Boeing Co., NASA and the Department of Energy, the three parties responsible for cleaning up the site. But officials say it’s unlikely that deadline will be met, partly because they’re still trying to determine which routes disposal trucks can take to remove contaminated soil from the area. One of the proposed routes passes through Thousand Oaks.

The DTSC held a public meeting Aug. 7 at the Simi Valley Senior Center seeking residents’ input on potential routes and options for removing contaminated soil from the 2,850-acre field lab, the site of a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959.

According to Mark Malinowski, DTSC project team manager, the public’s input will give the agency guidance as they prepare an environmental report on the cleanup of the entire site.

The report is set to be released some time in 2015. Malinowski said cleanup officials may not make a decision on which methods to take for removing contaminated soil until as late as 2016, adding that it could take several years for the soil to be completely removed.

“Everything is still in the very early stages. . . .” he said. “We are trying to get cleanup (started) by 2017.”

About 80 people, many from Woolsey Canyon and the San Fernando Valley, attended last week’s meeting and expressed concerns that the cleanup would not be completed by 2017.

The field lab in the southeast hills of Simi Valley was used as a nuclear test site and for research in the development of rockets and space shuttle equipment since 1947.

Boeing owns about 80 percent of the lab; the federal government owns the remaining 20 percent, with NASA and the Department of Energy each overseeing part of the government’s portion. In 2007 the three parties signed a consent order agreeing to clean up the field lab; the DTSC is the agency responsible for overseeing the effort.

Disposal routes

Boeing, NASA and the DOE must clean the site according to risk-based cleanup standards, which could result in significant excavation and removal of thousands of cubic yards of contaminated soil.

At last week’s meeting, the DTSC provided attendees with maps of the region, which showed eight possible routes for trucks to transport the soil, as well as two routes where conveyor belts could be installed and used to move soil to nearby rail stations.

Four of the potential truck routes and both of the conveyor belt routes cut through the city of Simi Valley.

Another disposal route is proposed to travel through Thousand Oaks, along the Montgomery Fire Road to Avenida de Los Arboles, then onto the 23 Freeway.

The other three proposed disposal routes go through the San Fernando Valley.

When residents asked Malinowski how much contaminated soil would be removed, he said that would be determined in the environmental impact report.

Representatives from Boeing, NASAand the DOE are developing their own estimates of how much soil could be transported to treatment facilities.

On May 1, NASA released an environmental statement estimating that as much as 500,000 cubic yards of soil will need to be removed from its portion of the lab.

Boeing’s early estimates show its portion of the site has about 400,000 cubic yards of soil requiring remediation, said Boeing spokesperson Megan Hilfer.

Hilfer added that studies are being conducted to determine options for treating soil on-site or in place to reduce the amount of truck traffic.

Stephanie Jennings, deputy federal project director with the DOE, said the agency conducted a preliminary volume analysis and estimated between 1.1 million and 1.7 million cubic yards of soil may need to be removed from its section of the SSFL.

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