From Space Race to Open Space

April 21, 2014 in Environment

Environmental project manager Art Lenox.

Environmental project manager Art Lenox leads the team conducting soil and groundwater investigations as part of Boeing’s remediation program at Santa Susana, Calif., a 2,850-acre (1,150-hectare) site, a portion of which was previously used for government rocket-engine testing and energy research. In this Boeing Frontiers magazine series that profiles employees talking about their jobs, Lenox describes in his own words how Boeing teamwork and public involvement are helping shape the site's future as open space.

"I grew up listening to the sound of rocket-engine tests at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory at a time when the United States was enthralled with space exploration. This testing supported virtually every major U.S. space program, from the first manned Mercury flights through the Apollo moon landings and space shuttle fleet. While it has been nearly a decade since the last rocket engine was tested here, the natural beauty of Santa Susana lives on.

"I spend much of my free time hiking, camping, kayaking and fishing with my family, which is why it suits me well to work amid Santa Susana’s sandstone bluffs and oak tree groves. Santa Susana is home to deer, bobcats, coyotes and cougars, and it sits within one of the last links of a vital wildlife corridor that connects inland and coastal mountain ranges. As a lifelong San Fernando Valley resident, I’ve always felt like Santa Susana has been part of my backyard. This proximity, combined with my love of the outdoors, is why I find it so gratifying to play an integral role in the site’s cleanup and preservation as open space.

"I brought my kids to witness the last rocket-engine test at Santa Susana about eight years ago. I remember us sitting in amazement as we felt the ground shake, heard the roar of the engine and saw the flash as it ignited. It is unfortunate that the price of this innovation was contamination, but we have some of the best and the brightest minds in the country dedicated to tackling that issue head-on—from Boeing employees and contractors to nature groups and experts who act as advisers. It brings me great pride to know that I have a hand in shaping this place that my grandkids will visit when they want to experience nature.

"Under the oversight of federal and state agencies, we have made significant progress in cleaning up Santa Susana in a way that will be far more protective than what is required for open space. I led the team that recently completed an extensive soil removal project to improve stormwater quality. Over four years of fieldwork, we removed 25,000 cubic yards (19,100 cubic meters) of affected soil while taking precautions to minimize our impact on streambeds and wildlife habitat. It is this extra level of care we take while fulfilling our cleanup and restoration commitments that represents Boeing’s environmental stewardship in action.

"Our accomplishments so far have relied a lot on technology and teamwork, but the true key to Boeing’s progress is our interaction with the community. As the Santa Susana team implements cleanup activities and demolishes structures, we are sharing our open-space vision and building trust with the public by addressing concerns and answering questions. As the landscape at Santa Susana changes, it is rewarding to celebrate this progress through other people’s eyes when they attend a tour, nature walk or other event at the site.

"The legacy of Santa Susana goes beyond cleanup. The site is transitioning from a historic industrial facility to open space, with native grasses and plants reclaiming the land in the footprint of former buildings. I am energized by the growing number of people who visit and see what I have known all along: Santa Susana is a place of wonder, beauty and vast ecological value. And it will be for generations to come."

To learn more about Boeing’s restoration work at Santa Susana, visit