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DTSC Letter in Response to City of Simi Valley

Published: 4/19/2013

DTSC April 3, 2013, letter citing no evidence of off-site contamination from SSFL. Letterhead copy of the original email.

Note: Highlight added by NASA

April 3, 2013

The Honorable Robert O. Huber
Major of City of Simi Valley
2929 Tapo Canyon Road
Simi Valley, California 93063-2199


Dear Mayor Huber:

I would like to thank you and the Simi Valley City Council on behalf of Director Deborah Raphael for your March 4, 2013, letter regarding the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). I appreciate your acknowledgement of the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) role and commitment to the SSFL cleanup.

Let me assure you that DTSC continues to work and ensure that the health and safety of communities surrounding SSFL are protected. To date we have not found evidence of off-site contamination from SSFL that would pose a risk to human health or the environment. We will continue our efforts to get investigation and cleanup activities completed as quickly and effectively as possible.

Your letter identified several important issues, and I would like to take this opportunity to share DTSC’s view on them.

  1. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) completed their investigation activities in December 2012. Although they have reduced their level of effort on the SSFL project, they will continue to advise DTSC as needed. The Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) with the Department of Energy (DOE) identifies that increased US EPA activities will again be necessary when radionuclide cleanup activities begin. DTSC anticipates that DOE will need to reengage with the US EPA in 2015 for the radiological cleanup activities.
  2. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report is an internal document to NASA management in which the OIG reviewed NASA’s cleanup commitment at SSFL. The report reviews the cost effectiveness and practicality of the AOC that NASA management signed and spells out NASA’s role in the cleanup of SSFL. The report does not make any requirements of NASA management nor does it impact NASA’s cleanup obligations at SSFL. NASA is legally bound to honor the AOC and to cleanup the site as the responsible party.
  3. While the United States District Court’s ruling enjoined enforcement of Senate Bill 990, the court’s decision does not impact the 2010 AOCs that DTSC negotiated with DOE and NASA. DTSC is responsible for the interpretation and implementation of the AOCs and DTSC expects DOE and NASA to continue to implement actions in compliance with the agreements.
  4. The applicability and validity of Senate Bill 990 does not affect Boeing’s obligations to clean up chemical and radiological contamination on those portions of the site for which it is responsible. Boeing is legally required to clean up the contamination to a level that will protect the environment and health and safety of your community. DTSC will continue to require Boeing to fulfill that obligation.
  5. Transfer of the NASA property by the U.S. General Services Administration before the completion of cleanup activities at the site would trigger the “early transfer” provisions in the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Any proposed transfer of this nature would require the Governor of California, DTSC, and responsible state agencies to make a determination that the property is suitable for transfer and that there are adequate assurances that any response action will not be compromised or delayed.

Thank you for your interest in supporting the SSFL cleanup. DTSC will continue to review and oversee the SSFL investigation and cleanup activities in a manner that effectively protects the local communities and environment. If you have questions regarding the content of this letter, please contact me at (916) 324-3148 or via email at



Stewart W. Black, P.G.
Deputy Director
Brownfields and Environmental Restoration Program.

cc: (sent via e-mail)

Mr. Mike Judge
Mayor Pro Tem
City of Simi Valley
2929 Tapo Canyon Road
Simi Valley, California 93063

The Honorable Glen T. Becerra
City of Simi Valley
2929 Tapo Canyon Road
Simi Valley, California 93063

The Honorable Keith L. Mashburn
City of Simi Valley
2929 Tapo Canyon Road
Simi Valley, California 93063

The Honorable Steven T. Sojka
City of Simi Valley
2929 Tapo Canyon Road
Simi Valley, California 93063

Simi Valley City Manager
2929 Tapo Canyon Road
Simi Valley, California 93063

Mr. James Purtee
Interim Assistant City Manager, Government Affairs
2929 Tapo Canyon Road
Simi Valley, California 93063

Ventura County Board of Supervisors
800 S. Victoria Avenue
Ventura, California 93009

Mr. Allen Elliott
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
George C. Marshall Space Flight Center
Mail Code: AS10
Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama 34812

Mr. Peter Zorba
Remedial Project Manager
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Santa Susana Field Laboratory
5800 Woolsey Canyon Road, MC T-487
Canoga Park, California 91304-1148

Mr. David Dassler
The Boeing Company
5800 Woolsey Canyon Road
MC T-487
Canoga Park, California 91304-1148

Mr. John Jones
Federal Project Director
4100 Guardian Street, Suite 160
Simi Valley, California 93063

Ms. Stephanie Jennings
Deputy Federal Project Director
4100 Guardian Street, Suite 160
Simi Valley, California 93063

The Honorable Daniel M. Tangherlini
U.S. General Services Administration
1275 First St NE
Washington (NE) DC 20002-3370

Ms. Ruth Cox
Regional Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
450 Golden Gate Ave, Room 5W-2690
San Francisco, California 94102-3661

Ms. Deborah O. Raphael, Director
Department of Toxic Substances Control
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 “I” Street, 25th Floor
Sacramento, California 95812-0806

Ms. Nancy Bothwell,
Senior Staff Counsel
Department of Toxic Substances Control
California Environmental Protection Agency
1001 “I” Street, 23th Floor
Sacramento, California 95812-0806

Mr. Ray Leclerc
Assistant Deputy Director
Brownfields & Environmental Restoration Program
Department of Toxic Substances Control
California Environmental Protection Agency
8800 Cal Center Drive
Sacramento, California 95812-0806

Mr. Mark Malinowski
Branch Chief
Santa Susana Field Laboratory Team
Department of Toxic Substances Control
California Environmental Protection Agency
8800 Cal Center Drive
Sacramento, California 95826

Clarification of facts pertaining to NASA-administered property at SSFL

Published: 4/3/2013

NASA provides clarification to recent inaccuracies made in letters and by media.

NASA Office of Inspector General Releases an audit regarding NASA’s Environmental Remediation Efforts at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Published: 2/14/2013

The NASA OIG has released an audit regarding NASA’s Environmental Remediation Efforts at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

Press Release associated with release of OIG Audit

NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin today released a report questioning the Agency’s approach to its planned environmental cleanup at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in California. First opened in 1948, the 2,850 acre facility 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles was the site of nuclear energy research by the Department of Energy and rocket testing by the United States Air Force and NASA. Over the years, these activities resulted in radiological and chemical contamination to soil and groundwater at the site.

Like all Federal agencies, NASA is required to comply with laws and regulations that govern cleanup of contaminants left behind from Agency activities. Generally, responsible parties are required to conduct risk assessments to evaluate the threat that contaminants pose to human health, identify the reasonably foreseeable use of the affected property, and structure their remediation efforts based on those results.

The Boeing Company, which owns and is responsible for the cleanup of the majority of the Santa Susana site, has publicly stated that it intends to preserve its portion for use as open space parkland. This intended use would normally require remediation to a “recreational” level, but Boeing has stated that it will clean its area to a more stringent “residential” level. The NASA portion of the site is also expected to be used as parkland.

In December 2010, NASA entered into an agreement with California officials in which it pledged to clean the soil at the Santa Susana site to its original state before any rocket testing activities began, known as “background” level by 2017. This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA has committed to an excessive and unnecessarily costly cleanup of the Santa Susana site. Specifically, the Agency agreed to clean its portion of the site to a level that exceeds the generally accepted standard necessary to protect human health in light of the expected future use of the land.

Moreover, although the precise requirements of the cleanup and therefore its ultimate cost have not been finalized, NASA estimates that remediation to “background” levels could cost more than $200 million, or more than twice the cost to clean the site to “residential” levels and more than eight times the cost to clean it to a “recreational” use standard. In addition, because cleanup to background levels may require highly invasive soil removal, there is a risk that such efforts would result in significant damage to the surrounding environment as well as to archaeological, historical, and natural resources at the site.

The OIG questioned whether NASA’s agreement to clean its portion of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory to background levels is the best use of limited NASA funds. Given NASA’s other environmental commitments and the fiscal constraints facing the Agency and the Nation, the OIG concluded that NASA can ill afford to spend tens of millions of dollars to clean up an area beyond its risk level or intended land use.

The OIG recommended that NASA reexamine its current plans for the Santa Susana cleanup and ensure that its remediation effort is conducted in the most cost-effective manner in keeping with the intended future use of the property. In its response to the report, NASA failed to indicate whether it agreed or disagreed with our recommendation and whether it would reexamine its current cleanup plans. Instead, the Agency pledged to work toward a cleanup that achieves “cost avoidance” and preserves cultural and natural resources within the requirements of their agreement with the State of California. However, the OIG cautioned that it is not clear that the Agency can achieve the most appropriate and cost effective remediation effort given the constraints of the current agreement.

The full report can be found on the OIG’s website at under “Reading Room” or at the following link:

Please contact Renee Juhans at 202-358-1220 if you have questions.

Renee N. Juhans
Executive Officer
NASA Office of Inspector General
(202) 358-1220

NASA Releases 2012 Year in Review

Published: 1/31/2013

The 2012 Year in Review summarizes the activities of a year of progress in the cleanup of land NASA administers in two areas of Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). We continue to make frequent contact during the year with community members and interested stakeholders.

SSFL FieldNOTE – January 2013

Published: 1/18/2013

Our third update (FieldNOTE) about cleanup at SSFL is now available. This one highlights field surveys that help us characterize the natural habitats on the site and provides information for our Environmental Impact Statement.

SSFL FieldNOTE - January 2013

ISRA Excavation and Removal of "ELV" Soils Has Begun

Published: 11/13/2012

To undertake some Interim Source Removal Action (ISRA) activities in the Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) Service area in NASA-administered Area II before the onset of seasonal rains, NASA has begun excavation and removal of some surface soils. The area being excavated is the southwestern portion of the ELV-1C area.

This action is taken at the direction of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) and with the concurrence of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Soils within this portion of the ELV-1C area have been sampled, analyzed, and compared to the ISRA cleanup goals approved by the RWQCB. Any soils with concentrations above these goals will be excavated. Additionally, waste characterization soil samples were analyzed in the ELV-1C area and, with the written approval of DTSC, these soils were screened against the Radiological Trigger Levels (RTLs) provided by EPA in December 2011. The soil sample results in the southwestern portion of the ELV-1C area yielded no radionuclide results at or above the December 2011 RTLs. The soils will be transported for disposal at the Waste Management Landfill in Lancaster, California, which accepts non-hazardous soils.

This decision reflects cooperation among NASA, DTSC and the RWQCB. The parties concluded that, because the EPA’s recommended RTLs are a more conservative screening level than the expected radiological lookup tables (to be finalized next year), and because the southwestern ELV-1C soils results are below the RTLs, NASA should begin this important ISRA work this year, in the attempt to remove approximately 600 cubic yards soil before winter rains.

NASA Has Received Closure Certification from DTSC for Three Groundwater Treatment Units

Published: 11/9/2012

NASA has received Closure Certification from the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) for three Hazardous Waste Management Units on NASA-administered property at Santa Susana Field Laboratory. The Bravo Groundwater Treatment Unit (GWTU), the Delta GWTU, and the RD-09 GWTU, including the associated pipelines between the groundwater extraction wells and the GWTUs are considered closed by DTSC under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Closure Certificate Acknowledgment from DTSC (Text)

NASA posts links to RFI reports

Published: 9/5/2012

The previously submitted RFI reports for Groups 2, 3, 4, and 9 (which include the NASA sites at SSFL) can be found in the RFI - Soils section of the DTSC Document Library

Update on NASA’s National Environmental Policy Act Compliance for Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Published: 7/18/2012

NASA remains committed to a proposed cleanup to background that will meet the Administrative Order on Consent between DTSC and NASA.

We received comments from Senator Boxer and the Council on Environmental Quality regarding the evaluation of alternatives for the preparation of our Environmental Impact Statement. As a result, NASA has chosen to streamline its review in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and analyze only the alternatives of (a) cleanup to background and (b) the “no-action” alternative.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement can be found on the Key Documents page.

SSFL FieldNOTE – May 2012

Published: 5/2/2012

We are now providing periodic updates about our cleanup at SSFL. This one is about our Field Sampling Plans, which we have undertaken at the direction of, and in coordination with, DTSC.

SSFL FieldNOTE - May 2012