Read Dan Hirsch’s letter in the Acorn here.
For Immediate Release: December 19, 2018
- DEPT. OF ENERGY HAD COMMITTED TO CLEANING UP ALL CONTAMINATION, NOW SAYS IT WILL LEAVE 98% OF CONTAMINATED SOIL NOT CLEANED UP – JUST WEEKS AFTER WOOLSEY FIRE BURNS SITE
- NEW REPORT DEVASTATES TOXIC AGENCY ASSURANCES THAT FIRE CAUSED NO TOXIC RELEASE
The Trump Administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it intends to leave almost all of the contaminated soil in its area of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) not cleaned up, despite admitting that would violate the legally binding agreement it entered into with California in 2010. The breach of long-standing promises is included in the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the SSFL cleanup, released by the Department of Energy on December 18, 2018.
In 2010, DOE signed an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), committing to clean up all contamination that could be detected on it’s portion of the Santa Susana Field Lab, with some very narrow exceptions. The new EIS report declares DOE now intends to clean up only 38,000 of the 1.6 million cubic yards of soil it admits are contaminated. According to the DOE’s report, 98% of the contaminated soil wouldn’t be cleaned up. DOE also proposes to not remediate most of the contaminated groundwater at the site, but to just leave it to “naturally attenuate.”
The SSFL is one of the most contaminated sites in the state. It housed ten nuclear reactors, one of which suffered a partial nuclear meltdown and three others also experienced serious accidents. There was a plutonium fuel fabrication facility and a “hot lab” which cut up highly irradiated nuclear fuel shipped in from around the country. Radioactive and toxic chemical wastes were burned for years in open-air pits. There were tens of thousands of rocket engine tests. All of these activities and sloppy environmental practices resulted in widespread radioactive and toxic chemical pollution of soil, groundwater and surface water. Federally-funded studies found a greater than 60% higher incidence of key cancers associated with proximity to SSFL and migration of contaminants to offsite communities in excess of EPA levels of concern.
“The Trump Administration has just stuck its finger in the eyes of the incoming Newsom Administration and the half million people who live near this contaminated site,” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles..The question now is whether Mr. Newsom will aggressively defend California against Trump’s breach of a legally binding agreement with the state. Newsom needs also to fundamentally reform the troubled state toxics agency, whose failure to regulate the site contributed to the contamination in the first place.”
On the same day DOE broke the cleanup agreement, the widely distrusted DTSC released a preliminary summary about the Woolsey fire, which began at and burned much of SSFL. The DTSC summary continues the agency’s dubious claims that burning hundreds of acres of contaminated vegetation and soil couldn’t result in any releases of radioactive and toxic chemical pollution.
“DTSC’s report has no credibility,” said Duffield. “As the critique demonstrates, there are virtually no measurements from the time of the fire, which is what matters most, and only a handful of very insensitive measurements taken days after the fire was out. Even so, DTSC found some elevated soil and ash concentrations offsite, which it proceeded to dismiss.”
Melissa Bumstead, a West Hills resident whose young daughter has twice survived leukemia and who has mapped 50 other rare pediatric cancers near SSFL, expressed strong distrust of DTSC. “The DTSC has repeatedly lied to our community about the SSFL’s contamination and cleanup. Now they claim they can’t detect any contamination on the site, even though their previous tests found extensive chemical and radioactive toxins there before. Are we supposed to believe that the fire cured the site of all contamination, and if so, wouldn’t that mean it burned and blew the waste off site and into our communities? We want to know that our families are safe from radioactive waste in our communities. But the DTSC’s report hasn’t given us those answers.”
DOE and DTSC promised that all contamination at SSFL would be cleaned up by last year. Both have broken their promises, the cleanup hasn’t even begun, and DOE has now declared it has no intention of living up to the legally binding agreement it signed. DOE instead claims it will clean the site up to an “open space” standard where it would supposedly be safe for someone to occasionally hike on the property. That does nothing to protect the people who live near the site 24/7.
“Hundreds of thousands of people living nearby will be at increased risk if Mr. Newsom, once he is Governor, doesn’t take strong steps to fight the Trump Administration’s breach of the cleanup agreements and also to fundamentally reform DTSC,” said Duffield. “We eagerly await his strong action to fully and finally get SSFL cleaned up.”
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Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) is the largest chapter of the national organization Physicians for Social Responsibility and has worked for the full cleanup of SSFL for over 30 years.. PSR-LA advocates for policies and practices that protect public health from nuclear and environmental threats and eliminate health disparities.
Parents vs. SSFL is a grassroots group of concerned parents and residents who demand compliance with cleanup agreements signed in 2010 that require a full cleanup of all radioactive and chemical contamination at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.
For Immediate Release: November 12, 2018
The tremendously destructive Woolsey Fire has been widely reported as beginning “near” the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL or Rocketdyne), but it appears that the fire began on the Rocketdyne property itself. Cal Fire identifies the fire location as E Street and Alfa Road, a location that is in fact on SSFL. It was recently reported that the “Chatsworth electric substation” experienced a disturbance 2 minutes before the fire was reported, but that substation is in fact on SSFL, near that location. A photograph posted on Twitter from KCAL9’s Stu Mundel shows the fire starting Thursday afternoon near the same location, which is only about 1,000 yards away from the site of the 1959 partial nuclear meltdown of the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) reactor.
The location of the smoke plume and fire from the above photo is shown in the pre-fire Google Earth image below.
Close-up image of Chatsworth substation, just east of SRE partial meltdown site.
“Though we must wait for fire authorities to conclude their investigation, it is ironic that an electrical substation built for a reactor that melted down six decades ago now may now be associated with a catastrophic fire that began on the SSFL site that is still badly contaminated from that accident and numerous other spills and releases,” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA.)
Cal Fire maps indicate that much of SSFL is within the fire boundaries.
Decades of nuclear and rocket-engine testing activity, including nuclear reactor accidents and other toxic spills and releases, have resulted in widespread contamination throughout SSFL’s 2,850 acre facility. Federally-funded studies indicate higher cancer incidents associated with proximity to the site. The California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which has regulatory oversight over the parties responsible for cleaning up the contamination – the Dept. of Energy, NASA, and the Boeing Company – signed legally binding agreements to fully cleanup the contamination by 2017. However, the cleanup has not even begun and DTSC is considering vastly weaker cleanup plans. “If DTSC and those responsible for polluting SSFL had not broken their cleanup commitments, we wouldn’t be facing the prospect of contamination now being driven off site by the fire,” said Duffield..
“The Woolsey Fire likely released and spread radiological and chemical contamination that was in SSFL’s soil and vegetation via smoke and ash,” said Dr. Bob Dodge, President of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “All wildfire smoke can be hazardous to health, but if SSFL had been cleaned up long ago as DTSC promised, we’d at least not have to worry about exposure to dangerous radionuclides and chemicals as well.”
A statement released by DTSC approximately 10 hours after the fire began said the agency doesn’t believe the fire caused the release of hazardous substances. Mohsen Nazemi, Deputy Director for DTSC’s Brownfields & Environmental Restoration Program, participated in a community meeting Sunday night in Woodland Hills, repeating the same unfounded denials and leaving without taking questions.
“We’ve learned not to trust anything DTSC says, so we’re demanding independent testing and air monitoring for radiation and chemicals from SSFL,” said Melissa Bumstead, a West HIlls resident whose daughter has twice survived leukemia that she believes was caused by SSFL. Bumstead’s Change.org petition urging that SSFL cleanup commitments be upheld has been signed by over 430,000 people. “DTSC has made one broken promise after another, and it wasn’t truthful about SSFL’s contamination long before the fire started.” said Bumstead. “Why would we believe DTSC’s statement that the fire caused no additional risk, when they know they’re the ones responsible for SSFL still being contaminated in the first place?”
Marie Mason, Simi Valley resident and co-founder of the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, agrees. “We’re outraged that after all these years, decades of foot-dragging by DTSC, an agency that is captured by polluters, may have resulted in even more toxic exposures. We’ve always worried about a fire at SSFL, and now a massive wildfire has started on site itself. SSFL could have and should have been cleaned up a long time ago.”
PSR-LA’s Duffield said, “While we must await the final investigation of the cause of the fire, the presently available evidence indicates it appears to have begun on the Santa Susana Field Lab, and the failure to clean it up has significantly increased risks to the public nearby.”