SACRAMENTO, May 20, 2020 – California has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to remove contaminated buildings at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former nuclear research and rocket engine test facility in Ventura County. This action requires DOE to remove all 10 buildings within the Radioactive Materials Handling Facility Complex. Removal of these deteriorating buildings will avoid a release of hazardous substances and minimize risk to the public and environment in the event of a fire followed by heavy rain.
“Today’s actions to clean up this toxic site are the result of a critical partnership between California and the U.S. Department of Energy that greatly benefited from the personal involvement of DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette and former Secretary Rick Perry,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “The surrounding communities have waited a long time for decisive action at the Santa Susana Field Lab and today’s Order represents a new and important chapter towards the full cleanup.”
“This is a significant step forward in the cleanup of this important site,” said CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. “We share this community’s concern regarding the possible release of contamination from this area, and credit the federal Department of Energy for working collaboratively to remove the buildings and complete this action.”
Demolition and removal of the building debris will be done under the requirements of the 2010 Administrative Orders on Consent, which governs the cleanup of SSFL. The debris from all 10 buildings will be transported out of state to a low-level radioactive waste facility for disposal.
“The Department of Energy is committed to making real and significant progress to address the environmental legacy of government-sponsored research,” said Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. “This agreement demonstrates that DOE and the state of California can work together to move the ETEC site to final cleanup and completion.”
The consent order issued by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control is consistent with Governor Gavin Newsom’s efforts to prevent and mitigate the impacts of wildfires. In reviewing Executive Order N-05-19, DTSC identified an opportunity to mitigate the risk from wildfires at SSFL. In the event of a fire followed by heavy rain, the deteriorating buildings could potentially release contamination that could migrate off site. This interim action will result in the removal of the above-ground portions of the buildings.
Contamination within the 1.5-acre RMHF Complex includes radionuclides, heavy metals, solvents, oils and greases, lead-based paint and asbestos-containing materials. The RMHF Complex, which is within the former Energy Technology Engineering Center, was built in 1959 to handle nuclear fuel.
DOE is one of three responsible parties for the cleanup at SSFL, with Boeing owning most of the site and NASA also owning a portion.
The mission of DTSC is to protect California’s people and environment from harmful effects of toxic substances by restoring contaminated properties, enforcing hazardous waste law, reducing hazardous waste generation, and encouraging the manufacture of chemically safer products.