PSR-LA Press Release: Study Finds Radioactivity Migrated from Contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory During Woolsey Fire

From Physicians for Social Responsibility

Congressional and Local Elected Officials Release Letters to CalEPA Complaining that the SSFL Soil Cleanup, Which Was to Have Been Completed by 2017, Hasn’t Even Begun

For Immediate Release: October 14, 2021

Contact: Denise Duffield, 310-339-9676 or dduffield@psr-la.org
Melissa Bumstead ‪(818) 835-5258‬ or melissabumstead@sbcglobal.net
Dr. Marco Kaltofen mpkaltofen@gmail.com

A peer-reviewed study, just published by the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, found that radioactive contamination from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) migrated offsite during the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which began at SSFL. The study calls into question widely distrusted claims by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and its toxics department that no contamination was released.

SSFL is a former nuclear and rocket-engine testing facility located in the hills above the Simi and San Fernando valleys. Decades of accidents, spills, and releases – including a partial nuclear meltdown – resulted in extensive radioactive and chemical contamination that still has not been cleaned up.

The study “Radioactive microparticles related to the Woolsey Fire in Simi Valley, CA” was conducted by Marco Kaltofen of the Dept. of Physics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Maggie and Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education. It examined 360 samples of household dust, surface soils, and ash from 150 homes as well as other locations collected in December 2018 through February 2019 by community volunteers who received training in sample and safety protocols. Photos and video of the sample collection can be downloaded here. The study found radioactive particles associated with the fire at SSFL as high as nineteen times background (normal) as much as nine miles away.

The study concludes that while most samples collected were at background levels, “some ashes and dusts collected from the Woolsey Fire zone in the fire’s immediate aftermath contained high activities of radioactive isotopes associated with the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). The data show that Woolsey Fire ash did, in fact, spread SSFL-related radioactive microparticles….Alpha and beta counting, high-resolution alpha and gamma spectroscopy, and X-ray microanalysis using SEM/EDS confirmed the presence of radioactive microparticles in the Woolsey Fire-related ashes and dusts.”

“Most of the fire-impacted samples found near the SSFL site’s perimeter were on lands accessible to the public. There were, however, scattered localized areas of increased radioactivity due to the presence of radioactive microparticles in ash and recently-settled dusts collected just after the Woolsey fire. These radioactive outliers were found in Thousand Oaks, CA, and Simi Valley, CA, about 15 and 5 km distant from SSFL, respectively. The Thousand Oaks samples had alpha count rates up to 19 times background, and X-ray spectroscopy (SEM) identified alpha-emitting thorium as the source of this excess radioactivity. Excessive alpha radiation in small particles is of particular interest because of the relatively high risk of inhalation-related long-term biological damage from internal alpha emitters compared to external radiation.”

The findings contradict conclusions by CalEPA’s Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which, a mere 9 hours after the fire began on November 8, 2018, declared that the fire didn’t result in releases of hazardous materials. CalEPA/DTSC issued an interim study in December 2018, affirmed in a final version in December 2020, which asserted that “data from sampling and measurements did not detect the release of chemical or radiological contaminants from SSFL.” The CalEPA/DTSC claims were widely criticized (see, e.g., Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).

The new findings call these claims into question and further reinforce concern about their failure to clean up SSFL as long promised. Had the state and the parties responsible for the contamination (Boeing, Dept. of Energy, and NASA) met their legally binding obligations to clean up SSFL by the 2017 deadline, the 2018 fire couldn’t have released contamination. And further failure to remediate the site will pose continuing risks to the offsite population, as set forth in letters by Congressional and local elected officials released today.

Congressional Letter to CalEPA Complaining About Failure to Clean Up The Site

Congressmembers Sherman, Brownley, Correa, and Napolitano and Senator Padilla sent a letter to CalEPA today, stating:

“The 2007 Consent Order and 2020 Administrative Orders on Consent govern clean-up of the site and tasked the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) with responsibility for overseeing the clean-up. These Orders required that soil cleanup be completed by 2017, however the agreed upon soil remediation at the site has yet to begin. We are deeply concerned about the lengthy delays in the clean-up of SSFL….”

“We strongly support the existing cleanup agreements between the state and the three responsible parties. These agreements should be vigorously enforced and proceed with all appropriate urgency.”

Eleven Local Elected Officials Confront CalEPA About Its Delayed Cleanup, Failure to Enforce Cleanup Agreements, & Negotiations With Boeing to Weaken Cleanup Standards

Also today, County Supervisors from Ventura and LA County, six mayors, and an LA City Councilmember sent a letter to CalEPA saying:

“It is now four years after the clean-up was supposed to have been completed per adopted agreements, and as yet the promised soil clean-up has not begun. We are opposed to any action that would significantly delay or weaken site clean-up. We are specifically concerned with the following activities of your agency:

  • No State effort to enforce the 2007 Consent Order and 2010 Administrative Orders on Consent.
  • Confidential negotiations between DTSC and Boeing that could delay or weaken clean-up by Boeing as required by the Consent Order and Administrative Order on Consent (CO & AOC).
  • Proposed further delays in the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report while having not addressed shortcomings in the EIR that the City of LA, the County of Ventura, and others identified over three years ago.
  • Possible changes to the Standardized Risk Assessment Methodology (SRAM2 Update) that would allow Boeing to delay and weaken clean-up.”

As indicated in the letter, there is widespread concern among electeds and the community about secret negotiations between the state and Boeing that could have the effect of further delaying the cleanup while allowing Boeing to walk away from cleaning up most of its contamination. In particular, there is concern that the core of such a Boeing-Newsom Administration deal would be to revise the Standardized Risk Assessment Methodology, or SRAM, which forms the basis for the cleanup standards, and to do so in a way that would allow as much as twenty times higher levels of contamination than permitted in the current SRAM.

“The community is incredibly grateful that our elected representatives are standing up for us, especially now while CalEPA remains in secret negotiations with Boeing. Given the agency’s conduct with the SSFL cleanup and its failure to protect many other impacted communities in California, we are concerned that CalEPA will cut a deal with Boeing that will leave the vast majority of contamination at SSFL,” said Jeni Knack, a community member who helped collect samples for the radiation study.

“Federally funded studies have previously confirmed that contamination has migrated offsite over U.S. EPA levels of concern, and that the incidence of key cancers in the neighboring communities increases with proximity to the site,” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA. “In addition, site owner Boeing has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for exceeding contamination limits in surface water runoff leaving the site over many years. Until and unless CalEPA and the parties responsible for the pollution finally live up to their cleanup agreements, people living around the site will be at further risk to their health.”

“The bottom line is, if SSFL had been cleaned up by 2017 as required by the cleanup agreements, the community wouldn’t have had to worry about contamination released by the Woolsey Fire,” said Melissa Bumstead, co-founder of Parents vs. SSFL. “My daughter is a two-time cancer survivor, and no parent should have to worry that the SSFL might give their child cancer when there’s a fire on site, or when it rains or it’s windy.”

MSNBC to Air Award-Winning Documentary About the Santa Susana Field Lab

MSNBC has announced the acquisition of the documentary, “In the Dark of the Valley,” which follows the story of Melissa Bumstead and other local mothers whose children have been diagnosed with rare cancers and are fighting for SSFL to be fully cleaned up. The film has won numerous awards on the festival circuit, including Best Documentary at the Phoenix and Catalina Film Festivals. The film will air nationwide on November 14, 2021 at 10pm EST.

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Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) 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.

https://www.psr-la.org/study-finds-radioactivity-migrated-from-contaminated-santa-susana-field-laboratory-during-woolsey-fire/

Nuclear Hotseat: New study on Santa Susana Field Lab radioactive fallout from Woolsey Fire; PSR-LA’s Denise Duffield, Melissa Bumstead – NH #541

From Nuclear Hotseat
November 3, 2021
by Libbe HaLevy

Santa Susana Field Lab Fallout from Woolsey Fire Study of Radioactive Releases – Melissa Bumstead (above) of Parents Against SSFL.

This Week’s Featured Interviews:

Santa Susana Field Lab – the push to clean up the 2,680 acre site continues in the wake of findings about the Woolsey fire releasing radioactive micro-particles into the surrounding Los Angeles neighborhoods.  One of the ongoing people helping to lead the fight is Denise Duffield.  She serves as Administrator for Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA’s (PSR-LA) and directs its nuclear threats program, which advocates for health protective policies related to nuclear weapons and nuclear energy.  Denise also works on environmental health and justice issues, addressing the needs of local communities who are impacted by toxic contamination and the failure of regulatory agencies to protect them. She leads PSR-LA’s efforts to ensure a full cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL).

Melissa Bumstead lives within 3.6 miles of the Santa Susana Field Lab.  She became an “accidental activist” for the SSFL cleanup after her four year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of leukemia in 2014. She founded Parents Against SSFL and continues to lead community efforts for a complete clean-up of the Boeing – former Rocketdyne – site.  (Her daughter is now 11 years old and cancer-free.)

nuclearhotseat.com/2021/11/03/santa-susana-field-lab-woolsey-fire-radiation-study/

“Worst nuclear disaster in US history” — MSNBC airs documentary about Santa Susana Field Lab nationwide on Nov. 14; Screening in Ojai on Nov. 5

From Physicians for Social Responsibility

MSNBC has acquired “In the Dark of the Valley,” an award-winning documentary film that chronicles the lives of a group of mothers turned advocates (Parents vs SSFL) who come face to face with corporate interests and governmental apathy in their fight to clean up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL.) The film will air nationwide on Sunday November 14 at 10 pm EST.  SSFL is a former nuclear and rocket-engine testing site located in the hills above the Simi and San Fernando valleys that remains heavily polluted with toxic contamination. 

PSR-LA Board President Dr. Robert Dodge and Associate Director Denise Duffield are featured throughout the documentary, working alongside community members and organizational allies as we have for over 30 years. We urge our members and supporters to view this important, poignant, and moving film.

In the Dark of the Valley has also been racking up awards on the film festival circuit, winning Best Documentary at the Phoenix Film Festival, the Catalina Film Festival, and Best Feature Documentary, Best Director, and Best Editing at the Angeles Documentaries. It will also screen at The Ojai Film Festival on Friday November 5 at 10 a.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here. View the film trailer below.

https://www.psr-la.org/new-documentary-film-about-santa-susana-field-lab-features-psr-la/

— NASA scam declares SSFL exempt from cleanup

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – PEER

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, October 1, 2020
Contact:  Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

Nuclear Cleanup Scam on Supremely Contaminated Site

Historic Designation for Santa Susana Lab Excuses Remediation Obligations

Washington, DC — One of the nation’s most highly contaminated sites may escape cleanup by its designation as a cultural district for Native American artifacts, according to formal comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  This attempted maneuver seeks to expand a small loophole in a legally binding cleanup agreement to exempt the entire nearly 3,000-acre highly contaminated site, which includes a partial nuclear reactor core meltdown, from long overdue remediation.

Santa Susana Field Laboratory is a former nuclear reactor and rocket testing facility, home to a partial nuclear meltdown and numerous other radioactive accidents and toxic chemical releases.  It is located in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California, 30 miles northwest of downtown LA.

After a prolonged, tortured history, the site is now under a legally binding cleanup agreement requiring restoration of the site to its condition before it was polluted. There is a very narrow exemption for “Native American artifacts that are formally recognized as Cultural Resources.”

NASA, one of the site’s owners, has nominated the entire Santa Susana site as a Cultural District and declaring all 2,850 acres of soil, much of it extremely contaminated, exempt from cleanup as a purported “Native American artifact.”  This proposal adding the entire Santa Susana site to the National Register of Historic Places is now before the National Park Service.

“This scam by NASA has nothing to do with preserving cultural heritage but everything to do with weaseling out of expensive cleanup responsibilities,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the cleanup was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2017, but has yet to begin. “There no good reason why this designation couldn’t wait until after the cleanup was completed.”

The PEER comments also point out that the NASA nomination –

  • Falsely claims designation will keep “the area in a state similar to when [tribal] ancestors used and occupied the area.”
  • Omits that there are already protections for identified cave paintings and grinding stones but this plan would artificially increase by a factor of more than 200 the protected area’s size to precisely match the boundaries of the entire 2,850-acre Santa Susana site; and
  • Glosses over the formal opposition of Ventura County, a fact which, by law, should preclude designation.

“Failure to clean Santa Susana leaves surrounding communities at risk of toxic migration,” added Ruch, pointing out wildfires and other natural events can spread contaminants far offsite.  “Nuclear and chemical waste are not cultural artifacts we want preserved.”

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Read the PEER comments

View the opaque Federal Register Notice

https://www.peer.org/nuclear-cleanup-scam-on-supremely-contaminated-site/

— 13 February 2020: Santa Susana Field Laboratory cleanup crisis meeting

CRITICAL SSFL WORK GROUP MEETING
“SSFL CLEANUP CRISIS: FINDING A PATH FORWARD” 

Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center
3050 E. Los Angeles Avenue, Simi Valley, CA 93065

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2020
6:30 p.m. vigil, 7:00 pm meeting
Seating is limited – 

Click here to RSVP today

Guest speaker: CalEPA Jared Blumenfeld

Description

Boeing, the Dept. of Energy, and NASA signed agreements to fully clean up all of SSFL’s contamination by 2017, but the cleanup hasn’t begun. Recently, all three have indicated their intent to break their cleanup agreements and leave most of the contamination on the site permanently. The cleanup is now at an impasse, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

California EPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld will discuss cleanup efforts on February 13 at a meeting of the SSFL Work Group. The SSFL Work Group was founded in 1989 to educate and engage the community, government agencies, and elected officials in the cleanup. The meeting will include a public Q&A with a panel of experts, community members, and elected officials.

SSFL Work Group Meeting
“SSFL Cleanup Crisis: Finding a Path Forward”
Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center
Thursday, February 13, 2020
6:30 PM Candlelight vigil
7:00 PM SSFL Work Group Meeting

Hosted by SSFL Work Group, Physicians for Social Responsibility- Los Angeles, Committee to Bridge the Gap, Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition and Parents Against SSFL.

The 2018 Woolsey fire at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (VIDEOS)

Legacy of a 60 Year Old Meltdown

Journalist Harvey Wasserman and Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility- L.A. discussed the  Woolsey Fire, its implications, and the California and corporate refusals to clean-up the SSFL site, endangering residents daily, in these excerpts from the December 2018 meeting of Americans for Democratic Action – Southern California, in Culver City.

The Woolsey fire started at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site, and based on helicopter sightings, was likely started by a transformer malfunction and fire at a Southern California Edison substation located there.

———————————————–

Additional resources
After The Dust Settles: A Woolsey Fire Sampling Update
https://www.fairewinds.org/woolsey-fire-blog/after-the-dust-settles 

PSR-LA https://www.psr-la.org/

Solartopia.org

Denise Duffield
PSR-LA Associate Director
dduffield (at) psr-la.org

Legacy of a Meltdown
By James Heddle & Mary Beth Brangan – EON
https://nonukesca.net/legacy-of-a-meltdown/

Santa Susana Field Laboratory: NASA releases draft supplemental environmental statement covering soil cleanup. Comments due Dec. 9

From the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

NOTE: The Federal Register notice does not give a due date for comments. It says the deadline is 45 days after the date of the Federal Register notice which was October 25. If you wish to submit comments, confirm the due date with NASA at the email address below.

Posted in the Federal Register
October 25, 2019

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/10/25/2019-23364/notice-of-availability-of-the-draft-supplemental-environmental-impact-statement-seis-for-soil

Click to access 2019-23364.pdf

Notice of Availability of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Soil Cleanup Activities at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

AGENCY:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

ACTION:

Notice of Availability of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to the March 2014 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for demolition and environmental cleanup activities for the NASA-administered portion of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), Ventura County, California. This SEIS will cover the soil cleanup activities at NASA’s portion of SSFL.

SUMMARY:

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as amended, the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA, and NASA’s NEPA policy and procedures, NASA has prepared a Draft SEIS for soil cleanup activities at SSFL in Ventura County, California. The Draft SEIS has been prepared because there are significant new circumstances relevant to environmental concerns bearing on the proposed action and its impacts. Specifically, the estimated quantity of soil required to be removed has increased substantially since the publication of the 2014 FEIS. This increase has the potential to alter the environmental impacts that were evaluated in the 2014 FEIS. For this reason, NASA has determined it is appropriate to prepare a supplement to the 2014 FEIS.

DATES:

Interested parties are invited to submit comments, preferably in writing, within forty-five (45) calendar days from the date of publication in the Federal Register of the Notice of Availability of the Draft SEIS on October 25, 2019.

ADDRESSES:

Comments submitted by mail should be addressed to Peter Zorba, SSFL Project Director, 5800 Woolsey Canyon Road, Canoga Park, CA 91304. Comments may be submitted via email to msfc-ssfl-eis@mail.nasa.gov. The Draft SEIS may be reviewed at the following locations:

1. Simi Valley Library, 2969 Tapo Canyon Road, Simi Valley, CA 93063, Phone: (805) 526-1735.

2. Platt Library, 23600 Victory Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 91367, Phone: (818) 340-9386.

3. California State University, Northridge Oviatt Library, 18111 Nordhoff Street, 2nd Floor, Room 265, Northridge, CA 91330, Phone: (818) 677-2285.

4. Department of Toxic Substances Control, 9211 Oakdale Avenue, Chatsworth, CA 91311, Phone: (818) 717-6521.

The Draft SEIS is also available on the internet at https://www.nasa.gov/​feature/​environmental-impact-statement-eis-for-demolition-and-environmental-cleanup-activities. The Federal Register Notice of Intent to prepare the Draft SEIS, issuedin the Federal Register on April 5, 2019, is also available on the internet at: https://ssfl.msfc.nasa.gov/​news#news20190405.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Peter Zorba, SSFL Project Director, by email at msfc-ssfl-information@mail.nasa.gov. Additional information about NASA’s SSFL site, the proposed soil cleanup activities, and the associated planning process and documentation (as available) may be found on the internet at https://ssfl.msfc.nasa.gov or on the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) website at https://www.dtsc.ca.gov/​SiteCleanup/​Santa_​Susana_​Field_​Lab/​.

For the full notice:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/10/25/2019-23364/notice-of-availability-of-the-draft-supplemental-environmental-impact-statement-seis-for-soil

— Massive California fire started at radioactive Santa Susana Field Laboratory site, Physicians for Social Responsibility warns of radioactive releases

From Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles
November 12, 2018

See website for more photos

Massive Woolsey Fire Began On Contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory, Close to Site of Partial Meltdown

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