Santa Susana Field Laboratory Cleanup Development

In a major development to strengthen the cleanup of contamination at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) in southeastern Ventura County, the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) on Monday, May 9, 2022, announced a comprehensive framework that establishes strict cleanup protocols and timelines for The Boeing Co.

The framework involves two agencies within CalEPA: the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (Los Angeles Water Board). The framework ensures that:

  • Boeing will clean up radionuclides in soil in its areas of responsibility to “background,” i.e., levels that would exist locally without industrial activity.
  • Boeing will clean up chemical contamination in its areas of responsibility to a health protective cleanup standard that could be as stringent as a “Resident with Garden” standard that has long been advocated for by members of the surrounding community.
  • Following the cleanup, stormwater runoff from the Boeing areas will not be polluted.

For years, this cleanup project has been stalled due to litigation and disputes over cleanup standards. The framework is the result of a 15-month legal mediation to avoid additional litigation under an earlier consent order.

Boeing’s total cleanup costs are expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, including cleanup costs that have already been expended.

The former field laboratory sits on a plateau and spans 2,850 acres 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles. From 1947 to 2006, Boeing and its predecessors, along with NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, conducted research, development, assembly and testing of rocket engines, small-scale nuclear reactors, and chemical lasers at the site. Though all industrial activity at the site ended in 2006, radionuclides and other contamination remain.