— California Woolsey fire burns nuclear meltdown site SSFL; Physicians for Social Responsibility responds to LA Magazine misinformation

From Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles

November 9, 2018

THE SANTA SUSANA FIELD LABORATORY (ROCKETDYNE) BURNED IN THE WOOLSEY FIRE, THREATENING TOXIC EXPOSURES FROM CONTAMINATED DUST, SMOKE, ASH AND SOIL. THE DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL DENIES RISK THAT IT CREATED BY DELAYING THE LONG PROMISED CLEANUP.

For Immediate Release: November 9, 2018

Contact: Denise Duffield, 310-339-9676 or dduffield@psr-la.org, Melissa Bumstead 818-298-3192* or melissabumstead@sbcglobal.net,


Last night, the Woolsey fire burned the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), a former nuclear and rocket engine testing site. Footage from local television showed flames surrounding rocket test stands, and the fire’s progress through to Oak Park indicates that much of the toxic site burned.

statement released by the California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) said that its staff, “do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.” The statement failed to assuage community concerns given DTSC’s longtime pattern of misinformation about SSFL’s contamination and its repeated broken promises to clean it up.

“We can’t trust anything that DTSC says,” said West Hills resident Melissa Bumstead, whose young daughter has twice survived leukemia that she blames on SSFL and who has mapped 50 other cases of rare pediatric cancers near the site. Bumstead organized a group called “Parents vs. SSFL” and launched a Change.org petition demanding full cleanup of SSFL that has been signed by over 410,000 people. “DTSC repeatedly minimizes risk from SSFL and has broken every promise it ever made about the SSFL cleanup. Communities throughout the state have also been failed by DTSC. The public has no confidence in this troubled agency,” said Bumstead.

Nuclear reactor accidents, including a famous partial meltdown, tens of thousands of rocket engine tests, and sloppy environmental practices have left SSFL polluted with widespread radioactive and chemical contamination. Government-funded studies indicate increased cancers for offsite populations associated with proximity to the site, and that contamination migrates offsite over EPA levels of concern. In 2010, DTSC signed agreements with the Department of Energy and NASA that committed them to clean up all detectable contamination in their operational areas by 2017. DTSC also in 2010 committed to require Boeing, which owns most of the site, to cleanup to comparable standards. But the cleanup has not yet begun, and DTSC is currently considering proposals that will leave much, if not all, of SSFL’s contamination on site permanently.

Dr. Robert Dodge, President of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, shares the community’s concerns. “We know what substances are on the site and how hazardous they are. We’re talking about incredibly dangerous radionuclides and toxic chemicals such a trichloroethylene, perchlorate, dioxins and heavy metals. These toxic materials are in SSFL’s soil and vegetation, and when it burns and becomes airborne in smoke and ash, there is real possibility of heightened exposure for area residents.”

Dodge said protective measures recommended during any fire, such as staying indoors and wearing protective face masks, are even more important given the risks associated with SSFL’s contamination. Community members are organizing a campaign on social media to demand that DTSC release a public statement revealing the potential risks of exposure to SSFL contamination related to the fire.

But for residents such as Bumstead, worries will remain until SSFL is fully cleaned up. “When I look at that fire, all I see is other parents’ future heartache,” said Bumstead, “And what I feel is anger that if the DTSC had kept its word, we wouldn’t have these concerns, because the site would be cleaned up by now.”

###

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.

*The phone number for Melissa Bumstead has been corrected, an earlier version of this press release had an incorrect number.

RESPONSE TO LA MAGAZINE ARTICLE:

On November 10, Los Angeles Magazine ran an article claiming there was no risk related to SSFL contamination from the Woolsey fire that we now know actually began on the SSFL property itself. Below is our response.

Los Angeles Magazine must print a correction – this article is filled with errors and misinformation:

  1. There is no need to put quotes around “significantly contaminated” – SSFL is one of the most contaminated sites in the nation, subject of a promised but long-delayed state and federal cleanup; it is heavily contaminated with well documented nuclear and chemical contamination, from, among other things, a partial nuclear meltdown.
  2. The claim in the first hours of the fire by DTSC, an agency that has no public confidence to the point that the state legislature commissioned an Independent Review Panel to investigate its failings (which include the Exide fiasco in Vernon,) that it didn’t “believe” there was a risk is cover for its failure to live up to its cleanup commitments (it had promised the site would be cleaned up by 2017 and the cleanup hasn’t even begun). It is pure conjecture. DTSC does not have have any scientific data to back up the claim. It based the spurious assertion on its claim that the fire in its first hours was not in areas where contamination could be released, but the state fire department now shows almost all of the contaminated site as within the fire boundary.
  3. DTSC did not release it’s statement in response to the Forbes article, it released it the night before, when virtually nothing was known about the extent of the fire at SSFL
  4. SSFL is NEVER referred to as Area IV – that is simply one area in the site, the area where most of the nuclear activity occurred
  5. Given the extent of contamination in the site’s soil and vegetation, it is indeed possible and likely that contamination from the site was spread further from the fire in smoke, dust, and ash.

The bottom line is it irresponsible to claim that SSFL contamination was not spread further by the fire. Los Angeles Magazine may wish to read its own cover story from 1998: HOT ZONE – Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory was on the front lines of the Cold War. Now some who lived near “The Hill” say they share two distinctions: chronic illness and the unswerving belief that the lab caused it.

https://www.psr-la.org/woolsey-fire-burns-nuclear-meltdown-site-that-state-toxics-agency-failed-to-clean-up/

See also

https://www.vcstar.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/02/11/dodge-hirsch-santa-susana-field-lab-broken-promises/97766134/

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— Trinity downwinders: Dancing in the dust of death

Deliberate government atrocities —

“From the very beginning, the federal government has refused to take responsibility,”  — Sen. Tom Udall

‘A few people were probably overexposed, but they couldn’t prove it and we couldn’t prove it so we just assumed we got away with it.’” — Manhattan Project Medical Director, Dr. Louis Hempelmann

From Beyond Nuclear International

July 16 2018

Time to recognize New Mexico’s Trinity downwinders

By Linda Pentz Gunter

When Barbara Kent was twelve years old she went away to dance camp. It was July 1945. A dozen young girls were enjoying a summer retreat, sleeping together in a cabin, and sharing their love of dance. On July 16 they danced with something deadly.

After being jolted unexpectedly out of bed, they went outside pre-dawn when it should have been dark, to find it bright as day with a strange white ash falling like snowflakes. “Winter in July,” Kent, now 86 years old, has called it.

The girls rubbed the “snowflakes” on their bodies and caught them with their tongues. Before they all turned 40, 10 of the 12 girls had died.

No one had warned the girls, or their teacher, or anyone in the community, that the US government had just exploded the first atomic bomb a little more than 50 miles away at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico, now known as the Trinity Test Site. The “snowflakes” were deadly radioactive fallout and just the beginning of an endless — and likely permanent — cycle of disease, death and deprivation.

“While it was not the end of the world, it was the beginning of the end for so many people,” said Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, an organization that “seeks justice for the unknowing, unwilling and uncompensated participants of the July 16, 1945 Trinity test in southern New Mexico.”

Uncompensated because, even though the Trinity atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico, and for no reason that anyone has yet ascertained, the people of New Mexico dosed by the fallout have never been acknowledged or officially recognized by the federal government as downwinders.

They have never been compensated and, certainly, they have never received an apology from the US government.

That is why, for the past eight years, first as a US congressman and now as a member of the US Senate, Tom Udall (D-NM) has been fighting for the Trinity downwinders in his state to be included in the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act that, since the law’s inception in 1990, and even after it was amended in 2000, has failed, among others, to include New Mexico victims of the Trinity test.

On June 26, 2018, a hearing finally took place before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, at which Udall and many victims of exposure to radioactive fallout and uranium mining — on the Navajo Nation, in Idaho, New Mexico and even Guam — testified. All of them asked that RECA be amended once again to include those forgotten, ignored and affected, even though in many ways it is coming seventy three years too late.

“People sometimes ask me, ‘why don’t you just move?’” said Cordova when we talked after the Hill hearing. “Well the only safe day to move was July 15, 1945.”

Continue reading

— San Francisco: Eco-fraud by the bay

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Summer 2018 newsletter

Hot Property…in More Ways than One.
Hunters Point is being touted as San Francisco’s biggest
redevelopment since the 1906 earthquake.

San Francisco currently has a severe case of real estate fever,
pricing all but the rich out of its new housing market. The city’s poorest quarter, Bayview-Hunters Point in its southeast corner, is the latest epicenter of development mania. But, there is a big problem.

The Hunters Point Naval Shipyard hosted nuclear weapons work, including supposed decontamination of Navy ships used in Pacific hydrogen bomb tests–which left the shipyard with ultra-high radioactivity. It has been an EPA Superfund site since 1989.

Now, this nearly 30-year radiation cleanup has run off the tracks. PEER has obtained documents showing that the remaining contamination is far, far worse than previously reported:
• Almost 100% of the soil samples taken by the U.S. Navy’s contractor Tetra Tech re-examined by the  EPA are “falsified,” subject to deliberate manipulation and “neither reliable nor defensible”;
• Parcels transferred to San Francisco under false pretenses as suitable remain deeply contaminated; and
• Most every Tetra Tech radiation survey on the shipyard’s buildings is bogus.

One of the things that makes these findings so remarkable is that the Navy was on notice for years that it had a major data meltdown on its hands yet is still trying to cook the books. Of course, neither the Navy nor EPA revealed any of this. There are still more shoes to drop and we intend to make Hunters Point the poster child for meaningful Superfund reform.

– – – – – – – –

Don’t Eat the Tomatoes
In areas of Hunters Point certified as clean, residents are subject to
a curious covenant: they may not grow food unless they import
soil. This raises the question of what is meant by “clean.” It is especially important with respect to radiation, a pollutant that keeps
on giving.

https://www.peer.org/assets/docs/PEEReview_Summer_18.pdf

Posted under Fair Use Rules

— July 16, 1979: Church Rock, New Mexico uranium disaster is largely unknown

From Beyond Nuclear Internatiional
July 16, 2018

A 90 million gallon nuclear tragedy

The uranium tailings spill at Church Rock, NM was the largest single release of radioactive contamination in US history

By Linda Pentz Gunter

On July 16, 1979,  the worst accidental release of radioactive waste in U.S. history happened at the Church Rock uranium mine and mill site. While the Three Mile Island accident (that same year) is well known, the enormous radioactive spill in New Mexico has been kept quiet. It is the U.S. nuclear accident that almost no one knows about.

Just 14 weeks after the Three Mile Island reactor accident, and 34 years to the day after the Trinity atomic test, the small community of Church Rock, New Mexico became the scene of another nuclear tragedy.

Ninety million gallons of liquid radioactive waste, and eleven hundred tons of solid mill wastes, burst through a broken dam wall at the Church Rock uranium mill facility, creating a flood of deadly effluents that permanently contaminated the Puerco River.

No one knows exactly how much radioactivity was released into the air during the Three Mile Island accident. The site monitors were shut down after their measurements of radioactive releases went off the scale.

But the American public knows even less about the Church Rock spill and, five weeks after it occurred, the mine and mill operator, United Nuclear Corporation (UNC), was back in business as if nothing had happened. Today, the Church Rock accident is acknowledged as likely the largest single release of radioactive contamination ever to take place in U.S. history (outside of the atomic bomb tests).

Why is the Church Rock spill – that washed into gullies, contaminated fields and the animals that grazed there, and made drinking water deadly – so anonymous in the annals of our nuclear history? Perhaps the answer lies in where it took place and who it affected.

Church Rock was a small farming community of Native Americans, mainly Navajo, eking out a subsistence living off the arid Southwestern land. Nearby, several hundred million gallons of liquid uranium mill tailings were sitting in a pond waiting for evaporation to leave behind solid tailings for storage. On the morning of July 16, 1979, part of the dam wall collapsed, releasing a roaring flood of radioactive water and sludge.

Continue reading

— Santa Susanna Field Lab March 8 meeting on DOE’s broken cleanup promises and how to ensure full cleanup

From the Santa Susanna Field Laboratory Work Group

NEXT SSFL WORK GROUP MEETING
Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 p.m.
Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center
3050 E. Los Angeles Avenue, Simi Valley, CA 93065
The Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the SSFL cleanup in which every option proposed would breach the legally binding cleanup agreement it signed in 2010 to clean up all contamination at SSFL. DOE now proposes instead to leave between 39% and 99% of the contamination not cleaned up. DOE hearings this week demonstrated public anger at DOE proposing to break its cleanup commitments, but much more is needed to ensure that DOE will uphold its SSFL cleanup commitments.

Please join us on March 8 to learn more about:

  • The Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) agreement that DOE signed to clean up all contamination at SSFL, and how the DOE’s proposals violate it
  • The amounts of contamination that DOE is proposing leaving behind, and the risks associated with the contamination
  • Misinformation put forth by DOE to help it break out of the agreement
  • How the community can help ensure a full cleanup of SSFL

We look forward to seeing you on March 8th for some straight talk about SSFL.

PS. If you haven’t yet, please submit a comment demanding that DOE honor its commitment to clean up all contamination at SSFL, and ask your friends, family, and neighbors to do so as well.

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), also known as Rocketdyne, is a former nuclear and rocket engine testing facility that is contaminated with radiological and chemical pollutants. The 2,850 acre site is near Simi Valley, Chatsworth, Canoga Park, Woodland Hills, West Hills, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Calabasas, and Thousand Oaks. For over twenty-five years, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Work Group has served to keep the community informed about the contamination at SSFL and assure it is thoroughly cleaned up.
To learn more visit www.ssflworkgroup.org or contact us at info@ssflworkgroup.org