Several environmental groups in the Los Angeles area have cried foul over the dumping of potentially radioactive demolition debris into municipal landfills. The row began this morning as the activist groups Consumer Watchdog, the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, and Physicians for Social Responsibility sent a nine-page letter to state officials and representatives of Boeing Corp. alleging the illegal dumping of radioactive materials.
The offending waste is from the old Santa Susana Field Laboratory which has served as a nuclear technology testing facility since the 1950’s. Over the years, the facility has experienced chemical fires and partial nuclear meltdowns from several of its “experimental” nuclear reactors. The most infamous meltdown occurred July 1959 in which an unspecified amount of radioactive debris was released into the atmosphere. It is believed the amount exceeded that of the Three Mile Island meltdown.
The facility is currently owned and operated by Boeing Corp. and NASA. The vast majority of the site is closed off in order to clean up the site and demolish the older contaminated facilities. The LA-based environmental watchdog groups claim that the crews cleaning up the facility have been dumping the debris from these buildings into municipal landfills that are not licensed to handle radioactive or toxic waste.
The state has responded by saying that the demolition debris has so far not been shown to be contaminated. But it has acknowledged in previous statements that certain portions of the facility are more likely to contain contaminants. NASA, Boeing, and the Department of Energy are overseeing demolition work on the site.
The dispute over the potential toxicity of the debris being hauled from the area is likely to result in legal action. The groups involved have already stated that they will seek a judicial order halting the demolition of the field laboratory in order to ensure that nothing radioactive is being sent to municipal landfills.