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Nuclear cleanup at Santa Susana facility would finish by 2017 under settlement

September 4, 2010 |  1:18 pm

In a major victory for community activists worried about health risks linked to a contaminated former nuclear research facility overlooking the west San Fernando Valley, state and federal authorities on Friday proposed a settlement agreement to clean up the site by 2017.

Under the proposal by the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control will oversee what is expected to be among the most intensive cleanup programs in the country.

The effort would involve hauling significant amounts of soil contaminated with carcinogenic dioxins, heavy metals and radioactive materials from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory to licensed waste dumps as far away as Utah, according to Rick Brausch, project director at the California agency.

If all goes according to plan, a final agreement could be in place within two months, Brausch said.

"After years of investigations and studies over where contamination exists at the site, we have now settled on how clean it needs to be," Brausch said. "There will be no contamination left after responsible parties complete their work."

Dan Hirsch, president of the antinuclear group Committee to Bridge the Gap, which has been struggling for three decades to get the 2,849-acre site 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles cleaned up, described the proposal as "a magnificent breakthrough."

"The community won today," Hirsch said. "At long last, tens of thousands of people living in the shadow of this contaminated facility will be protected from its radioactive and toxic legacy."

The settlement had been urged for years by community activists, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the environment and public works committee.

"Mostly, I want to thank the community members who never lost hope and never stopped fighting year after year after year," said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica).

Read the full story here.

--Louis Sahagun