Boeing Breaks Longstanding Commitments to Clean Up Contamination at Santa Susana

Groups Condemn Boeing Plan to Walk Away from Almost All Contamination at Nuclear and Rocket Engine Testing Facility Near Los Angeles


After years of repeated promises to clean up radioactive and toxic chemical contamination at its former nuclear and rocket testing facility, the Boeing Company has announced it is reneging on those promises. Groups that have spent decades working for the carcinogenic mess at the site to be remediated have expressed outrage.

Boeing has long committed to cleaning up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) to a level that would be safe for people to live there, even though it said residences on the site weren’t anticipated, in order to protect the tens of thousands of people who do live nearby and are at risk from the migrating contamination. Boeing has now breached those promises and says it instead wants to leave a thousand times higher concentrations of contamination than it promised, so much that according to its own risk estimates as many as 96 out of 100 people could get cancer from the remaining contamination if they lived at some areas of the site.

Boeing proposes now to use an extraordinarily weaker “open space” rather than the promised residential cleanup standard. But large numbers of people reside nearby, and they will forever be at risk of cancer, leukemia, and a host of other illnesses from the pollution that will remain and will keep migrating offsite if Boeing’s plan is approved. Indeed, if the state toxics regulators, who had also promised full cleanup, cave to this powerful polluter, as much as 98% of the contamination will not be cleaned up.

“It is irrelevant whether SSFL is open space, the issue is all the people who live nearby who will remain forever at risk from the migration of the contaminants Boeing now says it doesn’t want to clean up.” said Denise Duffield, associate director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.

“Communities nearby are not ‘open space,'” said Dawn Kowalski, local resident and co-founder of the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition. “Boeing doesn’t propose to buy up the homes of the people who live in the shadow of this radioactive and toxic mess and who will be at perpetual risk if it is not cleaned up. Boeing has proven that it is not only a massive polluter but also doesn’t tell the truth. No one ever really believed its promises that it would clean the site up, and today it has proven that its word means nothing.”

Federally-funded studies already found a greater than 60% increase in key cancers in people living near the site compared to those living further away. If Boeing is allowed to breach its word, more and more people will be at risk of similar illness and death.

“It all comes down now to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which has repeatedly promised a full cleanup. The polluter doesn’t get to decide how much of its contamination it will clean up; the regulator does. Now we will see whether DTSC works for the people or is, as many fear, owned by the polluters like Boeing.” Duffield said.

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The Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, or RCC, is a community-based alliance dedicated to the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), commonly known as Rocketdyne.

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