When the guard rails of democracy come off

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What are the consequences? When it's a cover-up of a nuclear meltdown to avoid cleanup? #SSFL

By Christina Walsh 11/1/18


We are quickly learning that local government is even more vulnerable to corruption than governments at state and federal levels—and the fish still does rot from the head. This is especially true when cities like Los Angeles create autonomous, unaccountable neighborhood councils made up of volunteers who have no term-limits despite city policies that regulate paid elected representatives.


When the 24 hour news cycle is politically driven news nearly all of the time, little else rises to even being talked about on a local basis.  In the current political 

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Santa Susana Field Lab where one of the nation's first nuclear disasters occurred in the hills above the San Fernando Valley.

climate, certainly, as we watch them cut corners in democratic processes at the local level, we find our voices are not being heard when the guard-rails of accountability are removed, No real oversight happens when the polluters control all the words. The result on a local level, is that local corruption gets little attention and goes unnoticed for the most part, and there is little accountability. Here are some examples that all tie to one of the richest, most powerful companies in the world—The Boeing Company along with the Department of Energy who pays the CAG and directs their work to minimize cleanup.

 

At 28:20 Maggie Compton speaks about her child for less than two minutes before being silenced.

Cancers in the surrounding communities above normal, especially for children.

When the federal government’s environmental protection fails, the States are soon to follow. When the federal government is the polluter, and the landowner, and the regulator, things get even more complicated

That’s what happened with California’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory located in the Simi Hills between the San Fernando Valley and Agoura, Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley. 


Transcript of meeting recording

When state and federal regulators protect the polluter

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The people affected, have little recourse and DTSC, the lead regulator does not answer questions or improve public understanding.

The site is owned by The Boeing Company, with smaller portions owned by the federal government (NASA), and the Department of Energy leased ninety acres of Area IV for nuclear experiments and development. This is where one of the worst nuclear disasters in United States history occurred in July of 1959 along with dozens of spills, radioactive fires and other documented accidents, discharges or releases to the surrounding environment, as well as burning of toxic waste under the cover of Ventura County "burn days" when agricultural field burning provided cover for the burning

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Melissa and PSR met with Gavin Newsom's office about the cancer levels in surrounding communities and delivered their petition for cleanup.

of waste that went on for decades at Santa Susana. 

The bait-and-switch game by polluters where landowner Boeing also poses as the acting agent for the federal government where their work on cleanup is reimbursed in what looks more like a money-laundering operation, than proper funding for an independent investigation and cleanup.

 

Big words, little action. According to this cleanup agreement, the polluters should have been paying penalties of $15,000 per day per polluter x every day since June 30th, 2017. But the State of California's DTSC hasn't even asked for such penalties to be assessed.


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More than 4000 worker claims and $192 million dollars later, the denial continues despite facts.


The West Hills Neighborhood Council bullying its members and attack those wanting cleanup is abusive, even with city officials present, and not a single word is said to stop them or set things right. This is especially ironic since Alec Uzemeck does not live in the City of Los Angeles, and runs things from afar to protect his personal investments in the area.



Government Agencies Involved

LOCAL

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City of Los Angeles, Neighborhood Councils, and Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

STATE

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Under CalEPA, Department of Toxic Substances Control leads soil cleanup while Regional Water Board leads groundwater cleanup.

FEDERAL

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US EPA did the ARRA $42 million dollar Radiation Soil Survey and Department Of Energy conducted the nuclear work, and also oversee their own cleanup.

How many violations before action will be taken? #SSFL

"Reduction in violations" is not good enough when violations continue to occur and the regulator only pushes deadlines forward instead of enforcing them.

The players and the issues:

The Boeing Company

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Primary landowner and one of the biggest manufacturing employers in the State of California and one of the richest companies in the world.

Off-site Evaluations

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Actual off-site evaluations have been extremely limited in scope. Necessary ground-scar evaluations from aerial photographs because of lack of transparency and oversight over the long history of violations at Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

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Conflicts of interest turn into corruption and deflection

Deflection and Blame

Since then, Boeing and its predecessors have worked overtime to cover-up, downplay, and down right deny facts about the releases from the site that include a partial nuclear meltdown and numerous nuclear accidents at several facilities, as well as, more than half a million gallons of toxic TCE into the groundwater below the site from rocket engine testing that also went on at the site.

The next governor of California will choose the next head of DTSC, which will play a pivotal role in what happens moving forward.  

“It used to be civilized, we’d discuss our differences and we felt heard. At least I thought so for years. Recently though, despite agreements that were supposed to mandate a cleanup that was to be completed by last year (June 30th, 2017), but instead, the cleanup still hasn’t even started. It is becoming more and more clear that the role of the federal government on this project is to kick the can down the road to the next generation and the one after that. We’ve been lied to so many times, we cannot even track the lies anymore. 

Biggest community concerns? Cancer, both in children and adults.

http://change.org/santasusana with more than 410,000 supporters, was still having trouble getting commitment from decision-makers. 

Cancer in the surrounding communities at elevated levels for both lung, breast, and 22 cancers included in the worker compensation program from Bonnie Klea’s NIOSH petition.  In addition to an earlier childhood cancer cluster of retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that usually results in loss of the eye, there are now 54 current pediatric cancer cases in the neighboring communities all self-reported. “Since I don’t speak Spanish, there are likely many more. 


We need to find all of the potentially affected children and map them to document all of this,” said Melissa Bumstead, who’s daughter Gracie is a bone marrow donor recipient after twice battling a rare form of leukemia. 

It was when Melissa was living at Children’s Hospital during the bone marrow recipient process with her daughter, that it really became clear that so many of the other children with these incredibly rare forms of cancer, were living in the same neighborhoods, going to the same parks, and schools. 

It seemed way off the charts and we are all trying to figure out why? Some blamed early trucking of waste, but that doesn’t make sense given the more than half century history of nuclear waste going up the hill in trucks from all across the country. So what is the common factor? 


Remember, no one is trying to blame ALL cancers on Santa Susana, but the facts about burning waste for decades are indisputable as well as the Sesnon Fire which burned over 70% of the site.  That’s why it’s so frustrating on a windy day like today to hear people talk about wanting to leave the contamination in place, when there is no basis to do so, no magic mountain that will keep it in place. Every time it rains or the wind blows, data shows us that migration of contamination occurs.


ALL LOCAL GOVERNMENT PUBLIC OUTREACH GOES THROUGH ALEC UZEMECK. WHY?


When I first met Jon B., he was standing at the mic at a West Hills Neighborhood Council meeting in early 2018 and told the Board that he was the THIRD West Hills Baseball Coach with the same cancer—multiple myeloma. With disbelief, I then heard one of the board members interrupt his two minutes by saying, “I just googled your cancer and it’s not caused by Boeing, it’s caused by the sun.” 

What???

Is that really the job of the neighborhood council members? To shut down community concerns? or to hear them? And the bullying and retaliation to silence Jon and others only got worse from there, and even escalated to online bullying by elected members of the Board. #CultureOfCorruption


The polluters engage in deflection, denial, and use local surrogates to persuade the local communities that they should prefer to keep the toxic contamination and instead should be very afraid of trucks. 


It’s a snow-job and we know it, but people will believe what they want to believe, and when the questions are so scary, 54 pediatric cancer cases in our neighborhoods and all the polluters do is deny that they children even exist. Here, after they had to file taxes, they admitted that the funding came from DOE, but still claimed it was from a different and separate division from the people making cleanup decisions.


That’s where local neighborhood councils stand as the last defense for the polluter to literally get away with these crimes. 


It’s beyond me, why these people help them lie, but they do, and they do so readily, and will retaliate against anyone that says that the place is contaminated with the toxic chemicals and radiation that is documented in millions of pages of data. 


THE QUESTION IS: ARE THEY DOING SO ON THEIR OWN? OR IS BOEING MOTIVATING THEM?


Putting false choices into the public sphere works because it is as if the people, who have access to reporting that proves otherwise, actually seem to want to be fooled rather than deal with the truth. Maybe that's easier than the truth, but future generations are counting on us to do the right thing.

Learn More

Through FOIA Freedom of Information Act requests, documented evidence of collusion between responsible parties and oversight regulators is undisputed, demonstrating needed reform of State regulatory agency DTSC Department of Toxic Substances Control currently headed by Barbara Lee.

Santa Susana Field Lab needs to be safe.

Expecting it to be safe to plant a backyard garden in resident homes near Santa Susana Field Laboratory is not an unrealistic expectation. Why is Boeing suggesting we don't need to be that safe?

When promises from the RPs meant something.

The regulators role was supposed to be to protect the people. What happened to DTSC under Barbara Lee's leadership? We deserve better.

Who helps the polluters pollute?

Who are the people who help the aerospace giant—and their federal partners?

Boeing and it’s federal and contractor partners get away with not cleaning up their toxic mess for so many decades through deflection, distraction, cover-up, and through sowing division in the community.


Since the site is owned by Boeing, DOE (Department of Energy), and NASA, the government collusion is a little less surprising, but to see it laid out, is still a stunning revelation in how captured regulatory agencies under this administration really are, It is truly the fox guarding the hen house without any interference. 

Each time the public pressure rises to a level that is uncomfortable, they change the faces of decision-makers. Now, in the climate and culture of corruption that we see in regulatory agencies today, we find that they have increased the push-back to the point of changing the audience by deleting critics from the process. 

Why do ALL pathways for community involvement begin with Alec Uzemeck? 

If he does not determine you to be on the side of denial, keep the contamination, your views will not be welcome in the public sphere. This is demonstrated both at WHNC meetings, as well as the social media groups also controlled by Mr. Uzemeck.

This is a new level of brazen governmental corruption by pressure from polluters to protect them over the people.

Barrels and barrels along the hillside of Santa Susana Field Laboratory's "Old Conservation Yard."
Barrels and barrels along the hillside of Santa Susana Field Laboratory's "Old Conservation Yard."

Radioactive Waste was trucked UP the hill

For nuclear fuel decladding and reprocessing at the Hot Lab and Radioacive Materials Handling Facility (RMHF) which is currently under review for demolition despite the needed cleanup not having occurred.

Who does Boeing control?

Short answer? Everyone.

 Take the West Hills Neighborhood Council for example. The Environmental Committee is chaired by Alec Uzemeck who also chairs the Community Advisory Group under DTSC. Despite having petitioned against the CAG, Alec soon took it over and deleted any members who wanted cleanup using retaliation, smears, rumors, and good old fashioned bullying. As a real estate investor who lives in Moorpark, there are many who wonder why he is a permanent fixture in the West Hills Neighborhood Council since he doesn’t even live in the City of Los Angeles. Silencing members from online posts, and from participating effectively has left the process without leadership or guardrails. 

Under the direction of DOE’s John Jones, the project director for the nuclear portion of the cleanup where Department of Energy is the responsible party, the CAG created a separate CAG Foundation where a subset of the 15 member group created a 5 person non-profit to receive funds from DOE to do their bidding in the public. This meant “removing conflict” and speaking for the community with “one voice.”  

As the responsible party responsible for the contamination at the site, the fact that Mr. Jones then paid $34,100 to Alec’s CAG Foundation and even helped set up the group as a federal contractor so that monies could be funneled to Alec Uzemeck, Dr. Ron Ziman, Tom Nachtrab, John Luker, and Abe Weitzberg. If the group was a community advisory group under California Health and Safety Code 6.8 (Superfund), then those monies should be transparent and declared but instead, the group was silent about the donation and even denied it to the public for more than a year — until they had to file their taxes. 

Despite claiming that it was some other division of DOE who made this arrangement with the CAG, it was indeed John Jones who was not only funding the CAG, but even shopping for that funding at HQ and pushing the process through. As the polluter, was this appropriate? Considering the lack of transparency, we would have to say NO.

As the relationship with DOE developed, they began directing the work the CAG would do, and that included reviewing previous epidemiology studies to find a different conclusion. For this, Abe Weitzberg, CAG member, Federal contractor, and former worker at the site, was also doubling as epidemiology expert despite not having any such credentials. 

John Jones then directed a complaint about the proposed cleanup, that would be filed with the Department of Energy Office of the Inspector General where claims of fraud and abuse and political interference would be made at the direction of John Jones, DOE. This is beyond conflict of interest, and truly escalates to collusion and conspiracy to misinform the public for the purpose of avoiding state regulation.

“You’ve been deleted.” the voice on the other end of the phone said. What did this mean? My heart was racing. One agency after another, in a matter of weeks, all came up with the same story without basis except that Boeing had made some calls and made sure that they were all on the same page — the Boeing page.

At the federal, state, city, and local levels, I had been deleted from the process as a stakeholder. How was this possible? I mean, this is America and I’ve been involved for almost 20 years. I founded cleanuprocketdyne.org in 2001 and had spent nearly two decades with these people and now I no longer existed. How did this happen? Well, it was carefully planned. 

Certified letters arrived from Boeing, DOE, DTSC, and the City of Los Angeles’ Deputy City Attorney told me that she had instructed her entire division that they would no longer would be accepting correspondence from me. What? 

I’m not entirely sure who is pulling all of the strings, but some of them I can be sure of — Mr. Jones of DOE and his efforts are clear cut and easy to understand. The efforts to collude by the Regional Water Quality Control Board was really the toughest for me to deal with. That was really the last line of defense that I thought was proper, credible, and transparent. Instead, I learned that the Board Staff who I thought was there to protect the people, was really there to protect Boeing from the people. 

How do we hold the biggest corporate giant accountable? Very, very loudly, wth lots of witnesses. 

Current public comment periods open include both DOE and NASA’s Record of Decision for their “Programmatic Agreements” to help to protect cultural resources during the cleanup process. Instead of reaching out to the public, every effort to quietly push forward without interaction with the public seems to be the ‘modus operandi’ for the moment. No announcement or public meetings were held to explain these documents, or assist the public in effectively participating in the process. One DOE meeting was announced, then canceled and changed to a conference call, which was then pushed up one hour, within an hour of the meeting occurrence. As imagined, the participation was very low because deflection works every time.

How deflection-by-design really works:

City of Los Angeles creates Neighborhood Councils which, while they are volunteer and advisory-only, they create their own by-laws which go beyond City policy. In short, this is the city’s way of creating little autonomous little unaccountable countries in each of the 96 Neighborhood Councils that serve 12 districts. And how did they come up with logic that says that running 96 neighborhood councils with the staff of 4 people is efficient, possible, or even responsible? I hope no one said that, because it is a true perfect-storm of corruption and unaccountability to serve personal interests above the people. In the sixth largest economy in the world, this is real problem.

How this harms public understanding of the issues and provides a false choice through fear and anxiety:

By scaring the public about trucks and failing to even mention the harmful contaminants up at the site driving this multi-decade process, eventually results in the public thinking there is nothing to do. Coupled with surrogates in the community who actively vilify anyone wanting cleanup, creating false-flag reasoning that it is a ‘hoax’ allowing the less informed community members to decide that there is nothing to worry about, and literally opt-out of the conversation. Each time that is accomplished, there is less standing in the way of getting away with NO CLEANUP despite legally binding agreements signed over a decade ago that was supposed to result in cleanup completion by June 30th, 2017. Today, since the cleanup still hasn’t started, the responsible parties are actively using these surrogates and retaliatory measures to make people afraid of the cleanup, instead of the remaining plutonium, cesium uranium, and strontium.

How does a person file a complaint?

You can’t. They demand that a complaint be filed within 30 days, and then refuse to consider the complaint or respond to questions about the lack of responsiveness. #ShelterInPlace

In fact, I would hold up the City of Los Angeles to any fascist dictatorship around the globe and I would bet that the City is every bit as corrupt and self-serving as a result of a system of deflection-by-design so people holding “forever” jobs are not accountable and can use their positions to further their personal goals or ambitions. There is no doubt that Boeing is laser-focused on the people who hold those positions for sale and barter.

Should a regulatory oversight agency be doing the job of defending the polluter, or the people? As far as we can see, the job held by each decision-maker in oversight positions, is controlled by funding from Boeing, either directly or indirectly. Here are a few examples at each level of governmental oversight:

1. Request to present at a public Regional Water Board meeting resulted in a counter presentation being done by the polluter, given to Board staff and presented in defense of the polluter. No effort to hear complaint before launching counter smears was done. PRAs reveal direct collusion by Boeing to protect Water Board.

2. Section 106 federal process requires participation. Following an invitation to a followup meeting, the meeting was canceled, moved to conference call, and citizen was banned from all federal DOE sites and spaces when no interaction had occurred since last meeting.

3. Upon stating that “a heads up about concerns” would no longer be given to Boeing, site directory David Dassler issued a letter banning the person from all Boeing sites, and further smeared with Water Board staff in likewise manner, thereby deleting the audience inquiring about the issue for over five years.

4. Regulatory lead, DTSC sent a letter limiting communication to a special correspondence email address thereby eliminating any one person to being accountable to words, promises made. Upon copying this communication to RPs, also eliminated the public process for that person. Copying the responsible parties on such a communication could have only one effect: To allow the responsible parties to also eliminate the public process for critics.

The details:

The FOIAs that provide deep background for the statements made herein.

The PRAs that provide deep background for the statements made herein.

The meeting recordings that provide deep background and verification of specific events, statements, and correspondence that demonstrates collusion.

What is background? Why is the EPA $42 million dollar survey missing from the DTSC website?


Boeing (w/DOE) controls all levers of power related to cleanup, contracts for cleanup, and funding.
Boeing (w/DOE) controls all levers of power related to cleanup, contracts for cleanup, and funding.

Blending contaminated water doesn't solve the problem.

Don't let decisionmakers lower drinking water standards to accommodate the polluters. Boeing's Santa Susana Field Lab continues to have water quality violations, and in many cases, they do not even sample where the water flows. We deserve better.