The Newsom administration has executed a Covenant “in perpetuity” with the Boeing Company allowing the highly polluted groundwater under the Santa Susana Field Laboratory to remain polluted for “an indeterminate amount of time,” according to documents posted in Nov. by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This arrangement will save Boeing a considerable amount of money by relieving it of any concrete remediation responsibilities or liability for the acutely polluted aquifer left behind on the controversial Venture County site, ten miles from downtown Los Angeles.
This deal is the latest chapter in a sweeping sweetheart deal the Newsom administration reached with Boeing this summer to absolve the corporation from having to clean up an estimated 90% of the polluted soil and from having to retain a stormwater discharge permit.
This reverses the state’s longstanding position that protecting public health requires a complete groundwater cleanup. In addition, leaving groundwater untreated for an indeterminate period:
- Further imperils drinking and agricultural water supplies in Ventura County, where contaminants from the Santa Susana aquifer are already appearing;
- Ignores further migration of contaminated water from the Santa Susana aquifer to other neighboring aquifers; and
- Would allow Boeing to continue to apply the groundwater onsite for “dust suppression and irrigation,” possibly creating a new surface water threat.
“This deal condemns Santa Susana to serve as a perpetual sacrifice zone dedicated to corporate convenience,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that any timelines for cleaning the groundwater have evaporated in the state’s latest deal with Boeing. “Bottling up a toxic plume for eternity and then walking away is a deal most polluters would love.”
PEER is leading a coalition of groups suing the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and Boeing to invalidate all facets of this closed-door settlement on the grounds that it violates the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), especially with respect to the total lack of public involvement or consideration of alternatives. Ironically, DTSC is the state agency charged with enforcing CEQA.
The existence of the Covenant was revealed by a legal notice DTSC placed in a local newspaper one month after the Covenant was recorded.
“Until last year, DTSC contended that aquifer restoration at Santa Susana was a legally required public health measure; the exact opposite of its current stand,” added Ruch, pointing out that DTSC has completely adopted Boeing’s position. “The Newsom administration is now so deep into Boeing’s pocket they could collect lint.”