The Santa Susana Field Lab should be listed as a high-priority cleanup, with closer scrutiny by federal authorities of the site’s extensive chemical and radioactive contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office announced Friday. After a seven-month review of the 2,850-acre hilltop site, the EPA’s regional team found that contamination at the site poses enough of a threat to human health and the environment to be added to the National Priorities List, also called the Superfund program. Lab watchdogs and neighbors have pushed for Superfund status – which is reserved for the nation’s worst contaminated sites – that would give the EPA authority to conduct a new investigation and oversee cleanup at the lab. “For 20 years, people have been asking for this,” said Dan Hirsch of the Committee to Bridge the Gap. “A dry cleaner in my community is a Superfund site. How could this nuclear facility not be a Superfund site?” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsLocated in the hills between Simi Valley and Chatsworth, the Santa Susana Field Lab opened in the 1940s for government nuclear energy research and rocket-engine testing. Those operations are now over, but the work left toxic and radioactive contamination in the soil and groundwater at the site. The cleanup has been contentious, with lawsuits and battles over how much pollution – particularly radiologically contaminated soil – lab owner Boeing and the Department of Energy can leave on the property. Under federal law, the Energy Department can supervise its own site cleanup, unless the site has Superfund status, in which case the EPA will oversee the cleanup. The agency had reviewed just the chemical pollution at the lab in 1987 and determined that the site didn’t score high enough on the hazard-ranking system. However, community activists continued to push the EPA for Superfund status, which they believed would ensure a more thorough decontamination than the Energy Department’s self-supervised cleanup. “The DOE and (Boeing) want to spend a minimum amount of money, so they use the lowest level of cleanup that they think they can get away with,” said Sheldon Plotkin, who has monitored the cleanup for the Southern California Federation of Scientists. The EPA Region 9 sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday asking for his opinion and agreement to federal oversight of the lab cleanup. His office said it is now reviewing the recommendation. If the governor agrees, the EPA regional office will recommend that the Washington, D.C., office grant Superfund status. Still, the governor could disagree and instead request that the field lab’s chemical cleanup remain under state control. The U.S. Department of Energy has authority over the radiological cleanup. “I think the site is definitely polluted enough to merit Superfund status,” said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, who said she hopes the governor will agree with the EPA recommendation. “I like the idea of EPA oversight. It helps protect the state of California.” But Superfund status could possibly affect negotiations currently under way between the governor and Boeing over the site. Earlier this year, the governor signed legislation requiring the strictest cleanup at the field lab – culminating an 18-year controversy since the Daily News disclosed toxic contamination of the research site. At the same time, he proposed an agreement in which Boeing could possibly clean up to a lesser standard in exchange for dedicating the land for open space. The company and state officials are now negotiating over appropriate standards. Boeing spokeswoman Blythe Jameson said Superfund status shouldn’t affect the cleanup. “The bill and letter of intent already requires that we clean up to California Superfund status, which is a similar process.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!