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Soil Record of Decision (ROD)

NASA has issued a Record of Decision for NASA Soil Cleanup Activities at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. NASA’s decision is to proceed with a Suburban Residential Cleanup, as described in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. A Suburban Residential Cleanup would be protective of public health and the environment, follow nationwide EPA guidelines, and is consistent with the cleanup standards imposed by the DTSC across the State of California.

NASA is eager to move ahead with soil cleanup. NASA can finalize a soil implementation cleanup plan once the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) completes their Programmatic Environmental Impact Report and issues a decision document.

Cleaning Up Soil at the Santa Susana Field Lab Background: The Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) is located in the Simi Hills, about thirty miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, CA. The SSFL opened in 1948 as a rocket engine research and testing facility and played a significant role in the development of the nation’s space flight program. NASA administers and is responsible for cleaning up approximately 450 acres of the 2,850-acre SSFL site. Research and testing activities have ceased, and cleanup activities are underway to remove chemicals in the environment that remain from past operations. Environmental Review Process: Federal law required NASA to complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the environmental impacts of soil cleanup alternatives at SSFL, including the 2010 Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) cleanup agreement with the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) using the Look-up Tables established by DTSC in 2013. In October 2020, NASA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) documenting NASA’s decision to proceed with a soil cleanup at SSFL using Suburban Residential cleanup standards. What is a Suburban Residential Cleanup? It is protective of public health and the environment and is consistent with risk-based standards applied by DTSC throughout the State of California and is the cleanup approach used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) across the nation. Would remove about 90% as much contamination as an AOC cleanup while requiring 70% less soil to be excavated and transported offsite. Preserves the site’s natural, historic, and Native American cultural resources. Allows for restoration of the natural habitat. Can be completed in 8 years compared to 25 years for an AOC cleanup. Next Steps: NASA is eager to being soil cleanup as soon as DTSC completes their Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) and approves NASA’s cleanup plans. Flow chart NASA issues ROD for soil cleanup > NASA develops soil cleanup plans > DTSC issues Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Report for SSFL > DTSC issues Notice of Determination for SSFL cleanup > DTSC approves NASA’s soil cleanup plan > Soil cleanup begins


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an AOC cleanup and the Suburban Residential Cleanup that NASA selected from the SEIS?

After NASA signed the 2010 AOC, DTSC developed soil Look-up Table (LUT) values at SSFL for 130 chemicals. The LUT values are based on either assessed naturally occurring threshold values derived from DTSC’s background study or the method reporting limit (MRL) for chemicals without a background threshold value. The MRL is the minimum level that an analytical instrument can report and provide a reliable result. These values are developed based on the capabilities of laboratory equipment; they are not based on known risks to human health and the environment.

A Suburban Residential cleanup would clean the soil to meet standard Suburban Residential risk-based cleanup goals, developed using nationwide Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines and the DTSC approved risk-based methodology specific to SSFL. Cleanup goals would be protective of a Suburban Residential exposure scenario, which assumes that both adults and children would be exposed to soil 24 hours per day, 350 days per year, for a total of 26 years.

An AOC cleanup would require the excavation and removal of up with 870,000 cubic yards of soil and would take 25 years to complete, whereas a Suburban Residential cleanup would require the removal 247,000 cubic yards of soil and take only eight years to complete.

Due the massive amount of soil requiring removal, and the lack of backfill that both meets AOC standards and is capable of restoring or sustaining the native plant life, an AOC cleanup would result in the devastation of plant life and geology in the region and alter water resources in unforeseeable ways.

DTSC has said that they will fully enforce the AOC. What happens if DTSC does not agree with NASA’s decision?

As a Federal Agency, NASA is required to follow the NEPA process and conduct an environmental review of impacts of a proposed action, in this case, soil cleanup, and NASA continues to adhere to NEPA requirements with this SEIS process. DTSC has their own State-mandated environmental review process. NASA is committed to conducting a cleanup at SSFL that is based in science, technically achievable, and is fully protective of the surrounding community and the natural environment. NASA looks forward to working with DTSC on our shared goal of beginning a safe and swift soil cleanup of the SSFL.

What about nuclear containments? Will a Suburban Residential Cleanup get rid of those?

There is no nuclear contamination at all on any of the NASA property. NASA has extensively reviewed historical documents and NASA never conducted nuclear research or used radioactive materials at SSFL. Prior to demolition, NASA conducted extensive radiological screening and found no manmade radiological contamination on any of the structures slated for demolition. The U.S. EPA’s 2012 radiological survey supported our data: they found no radiological contamination extended into NASA areas.