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Brownley: New Data Show Radioactivity Still Lurks at Santa Susana Field Lab

'This confirms what we were worried about,' assemblywoman says.

  • 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).

John Luker March 06, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I don't remember the community cheering. In fact, quite the opposite.
Sol March 06, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Thank you Assemblywoman Julia Brownley for your great help in advocating for us and future generations. What your staff, colleagues (State Senator Fran Pavley and especially former State Senator Sheila Kuehl), Committee to Bridge the Gap Daniel Hirsch, the Workgroup, and you-know-who-you-are community members -- has accomplished to date is truly remarkable. Now, can we please offer a way out for neighbors of Rocketdyne, namely land and property buybacks in order to get these innocents out of harms way? EPA has evacuation / relocation authority, invoke this authority immediately. Enough is enough. Nobody in their right mind will buy these properties -- these poor souls are stuck holding the bag, a bag full of nuclear and chemical waste.
Jock March 06, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I applaud her efforts re the SSFL cleanup and an attempt to cut through the obfuscation. Again a court has sided with big business by the 2011 decision lumping the SSFL cleanup in with other toxic sites and the court not wishing to hold Boeing to a "different standard". As if any other site has radiation levels of this kind !! I grew up in the valley, (or should I say the "Petrie Dish of Isotopes") watching the hills rumble, unknowingly playing in the hills as radioactive clouds drifted over us (no warning form our paranoid idiotic government).
rob vanasco March 06, 2012 at 07:40 PM
and the govt is locking people up for selling raw milk at a coop...lol
William Preston Bowling March 06, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Thank you President Obama for allocating over $40 million dollars of stimulus monies to the EPA to do this much needed study. Urge your legislators for testing the entire site as this study was only a portion. This is the Los Angeles River headwaters and with it's future use, we need to reduce potential health threats so a proper cleanup with source removal is the needed solution ACMELA dot Org
Sol March 06, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I agree with William Bowling. It's a no-brainer: sample and test Area 1, Area 2, and Area 3 as well. Illegal dumping of radiological waste occurred within these other areas (supervisor's mentality of look the other way, dig a hole, quickly pour it in, and keep your mouth shut, or get fired Rocketdyne worker). Area 4 is the only one looked at so far. Buffer zones are really plume-ignoring zones. Don't forget that these buffer zones need extensive evaluation by EPA, as illegal dumping of industrial wastes were a regular occurrence there too and these contaminants are not simply confined to imaginary area boundary lines -- mother nature ignores lines drawn in the sand. Following the chemical contamination, nuclear contamination, and mixed waste contamination offsite is an EPA mandate; as such, all settlement basins such as Chatsworth Reservoir need extensive attention by the EPA at this time. Likewise, contaminated drainages down the mountainside are dangerous places to live by, relocate these neighbors without delay, this being the only humane thing to do. Please contact your electeds and request proper cleanup and oversight. There is much, much more to be done. A $100 Million request from Washington DC would be a reasonable start, FWIW.
Jock March 06, 2012 at 11:16 PM
http://go.usa.gov/QDl. I will be there

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