2017-01-27 / Front Page

NASA pushes forward with razing

Structures come down in Delta area
By Melissa Simon


CONTAMINATION CONTROL— Above, buildings in the Delta test area of the Santa Susana Field Lab will be demolished next. At right, NASA project director Peter Zorba discusses the future removal of concrete and asphalt from the Delta test area. CONTAMINATION CONTROL— Above, buildings in the Delta test area of the Santa Susana Field Lab will be demolished next. At right, NASA project director Peter Zorba discusses the future removal of concrete and asphalt from the Delta test area. NASA continues to make progress in the cleanup of its portion of the Santa Susana Field Lab, with the second phase of demolition about 70 percent complete.

The agency is overseeing the cleanup of all of Area II and part of Area I at the field lab in the hills of Simi Valley. These are the portions that belong to the federal government and comprise 20 percent of the site. The other 80 percent of the field lab belongs to Boeing Co.

Since March, NASA has cleared out 11 potable water storage tanks and associated pipelines in the “Skyline area” in the southwest portion of Area II, inactive fuel farms in the historic Coca and Delta rocket test sites, and an old sewage treatment plant.


Photos by MICHAEL COONSAcorn Newspapers Photos by MICHAEL COONSAcorn Newspapers Dormant power lines, transformers, poles and obsolete pipelines have also been removed, said Peter Zorba, NASA’s field lab project director.

The second phase of demolition will continue next month with the removal of remaining concrete surfaces that have been deemed nonhazardous and obsolete structures in the former Delta test site, where large liquid propulsion systems were tested in the 1960s. The Delta rocket test stands were demolished in 1982.

Zorba said Delta is the first of the four test areas at the 2,850- acre field lab to be cleaned up. He anticipates phase two of the razing will be completed by the end of this year, but officials still don’t know when the entire cleanup will be completed.

“Pulling down service buildings, warehouse structures and steel buildings on flat concrete . . . was not that complex, but now we’re starting to get to the complexity of the demolition that’s a challenge (where) we’ve got to sit here, look at all the unknowns and figure out how we’re going to approach it,” Zorba said.


ALL GONE—An area along the north side of the Santa Susana Field Lab, pictured Jan. 13, sits nearly empty after several buildings were demolished, and the asphalt and concrete removed. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers ALL GONE—An area along the north side of the Santa Susana Field Lab, pictured Jan. 13, sits nearly empty after several buildings were demolished, and the asphalt and concrete removed. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers “There’s a lot of preparation that goes into getting us where we’re at now because there’s no class or book on how to demolish a test stand. And the stands at SSFL are unlike any at other NASA locations because they are anchored in bedrock instead of concrete.”

The field lab, built in 1947, was used as a nuclear test site and for research in the development of ballistic missiles, rockets and space shuttle equipment. In 1959, a partial nuclear meltdown occurred in Area IV, which is in the 80 percent of the field lab owned by Boeing.

Toxic cleanup of the field lab began in 2010, with NASA overseeing the federal government’s portion, and the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Toxic Substances Control managing Boeing’s portion.

NASA began its first phase of demolition in 2014, which included taking down the service areas and office buildings in the Delta area. That work was completed in December 2015.

“I’m very proud of my NASA predecessors who did amazing things here (at SSFL), like developing the rockets that put us into space, put a man on the moon and ended the Cold War,” Zorba said.

“I want to continue that work but . . . the work I’m doing, in a sense, is deconstructing a lot of what was constructed to bring the site back to as much of a normal condition as possible.”

NASA, Boeing and the DOE are waiting on the DTSC’s final environmental impact report, a state-issued document expected to be released in the next couple of months outlining the remediation responsibilities for all the agencies.

“We have to plan (remediation) according to the conditions, which vary from area to area,” Zorba said. “There’s no one silver bullet to fix everything. You have to look at each of these areas uniquely. The demolition is the first step in the cleanup process.”

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