Groups Sue to Stop SSFL Radioactive Waste from Going to Unlicensed Dumps

Over a decade ago, RCC protested against SSFL waste being sent to Buttonwillow. Now it is happening again.

Over a decade ago, RCC protested against SSFL waste being sent to Buttonwillow. Now it is happening again.

Four public interest organizations have filed suit against the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and Department of Public Health (DPH) to prevent radiologically contaminated waste from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory from going to sites not licensed or designed for radioactive waste.

The lawsuit by Consumer Watchdog, Committee to Bridge the Gap, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, and the Southern California Federation of Scientists alleges that Boeing has been demolishing buildings in Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) and sending waste, that, according to Boeing’s own measurements, is radioactively contaminated, to dumps and recycling centers not licensed to accept such waste. 

A new study issued by Committee to Bridge the Gap reports that contaminated debris from six structures has been delivered to municipal and hazardous waste landfills that are not licensed to accept low-level radioactive waste and to metal, asphalt, and concrete recyclers.

The lawsuit was filed a day after a letter from Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Race, Poverty, and the Environment outlined concerns and demanded that the agencies stop the pending demolition of a plutonium fuel fabrication building and “take immediate steps to prevent additional harm from further demolition and disposal of structures in Area IV.” DTSC and DPH did not respond within the designated time period.

The complaint cites the violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because DTSC and DPH have not performed any of the required environmental review for the demolition of structures at Area IV of SSFL prior to authorizing their demolition and disposal.

“Respondents have approved, without environmental review, the demolition and disposal of structures that are, by Boeing’s own measurements, radiologically contaminated,” the complaint says. “Worse, Respondents are expressly approving Boeing’s disposal of this radiologically contaminated waste offsite to toxic waste facilities that are neither licensed, nor designed, to accept radiologic material. Many tons of these materials have even been sent to recycling facilities so that these radiologically active materials enter the commercial metal supply.”

RCC protesting SSFL radioactive waste going to Buttonwillow.

Early RCC protest of SSFL radioactive waste being sent to Buttonwillow.

For the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, the story is all too familiar. RCC protested over a decade ago when Boeing tried to ship radioactive waste from a burnpit where radioactive waste was illegally burned to Buttonwillow, a low-income community of color which has already suffered negative health impacts that may be related to the hazardous waste facility located there.

To learn that the Buttonwillow community is once again the target for SSFL’s radioactive waste is astonishing. RCC advocates not only for a proper cleanup of SSFL but also for a proper disposal of SSFL waste.

RCC members featured in KNBC and KCBS news stories about the lawsuit:

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