- From the office of Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park.
Fifty-three years after a partial nuclear meltdown at the site in the Chatsworth Hills, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just released data finding extensive radioactive contamination still remains at the accident site.
"This confirms what we were worried about," said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park, a long-time leader in the fight for a complete and thorough cleanup of this former rocket engine testing laboratory. "This begins to answer critical questions about what's still up there, where, how much, and how bad?"
Data show exceedance levels ran as high as 1,000 times the "radiation trigger levels" ("RTLs") agreed to by the Department of Energy and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control in a historic cleanup agreement signed in December 2010. The findings are extremely disappointing especially because the site has already undergone two cleanup efforts by its owner, The Boeing Company, and the Department of Energy. Each declared the land fully cleaned.
Santa Susana Field Laboratory was the site of rocket and missile testing, and munitions development considered too dangerous to conduct in more populated areas. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, at least four of the reactors were involved in accidents, the worst of which was a partial in an uncontained building. The meltdown continued for two weeks until officials were able to find the cause of the problems.
After fierce resistance from officials at the federal Department of Energy, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control finally obtained at the end of 2010 the necessary official signatures on an agreement to clean up whatever contamination EPA found.
"The community cheered the agreement with the Department of Energy" Brownley said. "It looked like they would finally see the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site clean and free of the radioactive waste, and their worries about the unknown risks to their health and safety would be over. Now we have these findings of elevated levels of cesium-137, strontium-90, tritium, plutonium, and carbon-14 and other radioactive materials.
"I call again on the Department of Energy to comply with the agreement that it signed, fully and unconditionally. I also call on The Boeing Company to drop its lawsuit against the state and to clean up the site under its responsibility as the landowner. These findings by the EPA completely undercut any arguments that a lesser level of cleanup will be safe."
The EPA summary data is attached (in the box on the right).