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Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Laboratory Contamination

The neutrality of this entry is disputed.

The Rocketdyne Worker UCLA Epidemiological Study of employees at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, Canoga Park, and Chatsworth Facilities, located within Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, of Southern California, concludes that workplace radiation is responsible for more than one quarter of Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Lab worker deaths, (27.3%). SSFL is an open field lab and the testing areas consist of non-contained nuclear, rocket, and missile testing facilities. According to the report, the cancers and illnesses which killed the SSFL workers were caused by cumulative exposure to low-level radiation at the work site(s). The study evaluated 4,607 Rocketdyne and Atomics International employees, (AI), which was a division of, and merged with Rocketdyne, during 1984. Los Angeles Cancer Registry Data which only examined deceased worker data, was included in UCLA's reported findings which evaluated cancer data from SSFL and AI radiation workers employed from 1950 until 1993 in addition to Census Tract Cancer Data of the deceased workers. Rocketdyne workers who are living with cancer are not included in the study as data was only gleaned from records of the deceased employees.

Rocketdyne Nuclear Sodium Reactor Experiment: Containment Building Site of Nuclear Accidents Beginning 1959

The 1997 UCLA report states that workers from the Rocketdyne Lab have a cancer risk greater than eight times than that which has been shown by previous research published prior to the Rocketdyne Worker Health Study. Also, the study reports the fact that the workers have a much higher than expected death rate from leukemia, lung, and bladder cancers, as well as other malignancies.

Inhalation of low-level radionuclides over a long period of time, accumulates in the system until it is demonstrated by the gestation and then the occurrence of the malignancy. Many cancers, including cancers of the thyroid gland have a gestation period from four (4) to twenty (20) years or longer as have been shown by medical and scientific research of the residents near the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombing(s) of August, 1945, in addition to the studies of the individuals exposed to contamination from the Chernobyl blast of April, 1986. Moreover, many cancers of the thyroid gland, including other diseases such as Hashimoto's and Grave's disease, are caused by radiation, trichloroethylene, and perchlorate exposure as well as exposure to other contaminants discovered at the SSFL site.

Chemicals, (including trichloroethylene, perchlorate, hydrazine), and radionuclides have migrated by sediment transport in surface water runoff from the SSFL to offsite areas. In general, maximum concentrations have been detected just outside the SSFL property boundary; concentrations decrease rapidly with increasing distance from the facility. The area surrounding the SSFL is rugged and hilly and not easily accessible to persons in the nearby community, however, many individuals and families live in those communities known as Santa Susana Knolls and Box Canyon, as the communities and homes were created prior to the Second World War. There is a limited likelihood that persons in the community would come into contact with chemicals and radionuclides in soils and sediment just offsite of the SSFL as according to ATSDR's initial preliminary draft report. In addition, maximum concentrations of chemicals and radionuclides at these offsite areas are not at levels that would result in adverse human health effects if human exposure were to occur [DeRosa, 1997; ATSDR, 1997b, 1998]; however, the ATSDR report addressed above, was a preliminary draft as is the 1999 report, and the agency's later information expresses concerns that chemicals and radionuclides have now been found in samples collected in more distant residential or recreational areas surrounding the SSFL, including the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Simi, and Santa Susana, at levels that would result in adverse human health effects if any human exposure were to occur in these offsite areas. Problematic is the fact that Perchlorate has now been discovered by the Department of Toxic Substance Control offsite at multiple monitoring wells located in residential communities within Chatsworth, Simi, and Santa Susana, thus, DTSC now officially links the contamination to Rocketdyne SSFL and further states that the field lab may never be clean nor will its acreage be released for residential use. ATSDR now reports its agency is more concerned about perchlorate contamination from the open field laboratory inasmuch as the toxin has migrated offsite at levels above Federal and State of California safe drinking water regulations. The final published discovery and report of the Rocketdyne Community Resident Health Study, which examines exposure pathways to longtime residents of SSFL contaminants directly linked by DTSC to the open field lab site, which was caused by decades of engine testing, will be published during the spring of 2004.

Radionuclides may have been released during the fires near and adjacent to the Santa Susana Field Lab. These blazes burned more than 800 acres within the Bell Canyon, Parker, Sage, and Ahmanson Ranches, as well as portions of the Santa Susana Mountain Range. More than 200 firefighters worked to contain the fires which came within one mile of the Rocketdyne/Boeing Santa Susana Field Lab, (SSFL). The water used from the Rocketdyne Silver Nale Holding Pond to extinguish the blazes came from Outfall #02 near Bell Canyon, and that is water that has been discovered to be contaminated with radioactive and non-radiactive hazardous toxic wastes. The Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry, (ATSDR), noted their concern about the potential of deep fracture flow from the SSFL contaminated water, and expressed concern about the level of contaminants found in water from Outfall #02 in their preliminary draft of 03, December, 1999.

Residents of the field lab's surrounding communities were never notified of the activities taking place at the open field lab, nor were they ever notified of the nuclear materials used during spills, accidents or releases, and are now subjects of study regarding contaminant exposure from SSFL by UCLA.

Residents have not performed their daily activities while wearing protective clothing and although Rocketdyne Workers wore some protective clothing, more than one quarter of the workers deaths were caused by onsite cumulative radiation poisoning. Whether or not firefighters working against the blazes in the Santa Susana area wore protective clothing or were notified of the source of the water that was used to extinguish fires from Rocketdyne's contaminated holding pond remains unknown.

Rocketdyne/Boeing Santa Susana Field Lab Trichloroethylene Contamination