For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 1, 2020
Contact: Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade firstname.lastname@example.org
Nuclear Cleanup Scam on Supremely Contaminated Site
Historic Designation for Santa Susana Lab Excuses Remediation Obligations
Washington, DC — One of the nation’s most highly contaminated sites may escape cleanup by its designation as a cultural district for Native American artifacts, according to formal comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This attempted maneuver seeks to expand a small loophole in a legally binding cleanup agreement to exempt the entire nearly 3,000-acre highly contaminated site, which includes a partial nuclear reactor core meltdown, from long overdue remediation.
Santa Susana Field Laboratory is a former nuclear reactor and rocket testing facility, home to a partial nuclear meltdown and numerous other radioactive accidents and toxic chemical releases. It is located in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California, 30 miles northwest of downtown LA.
After a prolonged, tortured history, the site is now under a legally binding cleanup agreement requiring restoration of the site to its condition before it was polluted. There is a very narrow exemption for “Native American artifacts that are formally recognized as Cultural Resources.”
NASA, one of the site’s owners, has nominated the entire Santa Susana site as a Cultural District and declaring all 2,850 acres of soil, much of it extremely contaminated, exempt from cleanup as a purported “Native American artifact.” This proposal adding the entire Santa Susana site to the National Register of Historic Places is now before the National Park Service.
“This scam by NASA has nothing to do with preserving cultural heritage but everything to do with weaseling out of expensive cleanup responsibilities,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the cleanup was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2017, but has yet to begin. “There no good reason why this designation couldn’t wait until after the cleanup was completed.”
The PEER comments also point out that the NASA nomination –
- Falsely claims designation will keep “the area in a state similar to when [tribal] ancestors used and occupied the area.”
- Omits that there are already protections for identified cave paintings and grinding stones but this plan would artificially increase by a factor of more than 200 the protected area’s size to precisely match the boundaries of the entire 2,850-acre Santa Susana site; and
- Glosses over the formal opposition of Ventura County, a fact which, by law, should preclude designation.
“Failure to clean Santa Susana leaves surrounding communities at risk of toxic migration,” added Ruch, pointing out wildfires and other natural events can spread contaminants far offsite. “Nuclear and chemical waste are not cultural artifacts we want preserved.”