DTSC Lies about the dtsc

Where & how the woolsey fire started

The tremendously destructive Woolsey Fire has been widely reported as beginning “near” the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (also known as the SSFL or Rocketdyne), but it appears the fire began on the SSFL property itself. Cal Fire identifies the fire dispatch location as E Street and Alfa Road, which is only accessible by driving onto the SSFL.

It was reported that the “Edison Electric Chatsworth Substation” experienced a disturbance on November 8, 2018 at 2:22pm. The fire was reported at 2:24, just two minutes later, near the substation.

Closeup view of the Chatsworth Substation at the Santa Susana Field Lab and an example of how substation fires can ignite larger wildfires.

Closeup view of the Chatsworth Substation at the Santa Susana Field Lab and an example of how substation fires can ignite larger wildfires.

photograph posted on Twitter (below) from KCAL9’s Stu Mundel shows the fire starting near the Chatsworth Substation. The area shown burning is about 1,000 yards away from the site of the 1959 partial nuclear meltdown of the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) reactor. The SRE meltdown is why Santa Susana Field Lab is known as one of the worst meltdowns in American history. The substation had originally been built in part to provide electricity from the SRE reactor; the first reactor to produce commercial electricity. Shortly thereafter, the SRE reactor became the first commercial reactor to suffer a partial meltdown.

(Inset) A flyover of the Santa Susana Field Lab just as the Woolsey Fire was beginning.

(Inset) A flyover of the Santa Susana Field Lab just as the Woolsey Fire was beginning.

“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 the catastrophic Woolsey Fire that began on the 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.)

Worst Case Scenario

For years advocates have worried that a fire at the Santa Susana Field Lab would be the easiest way for the carcinogenic chemicals and radioactive waste to reach local communities. The site has radionuclides such as cesium-137, strontium-90, plutonium-239 that have leached into the topsoil and vegetation. Over 500,000 gallons of TCE are estimated to have been dumped on the ground and the site has an obscene amount of perchlorates and dangerous heavy metals, some thousands of times over EPA recommendations...all still on site because the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the state agency in charge of the cleanup, broke their promises to have the site safely and 100% cleaned by 2017. On November 8th, 2019 the Woolsey Fire ignited at the SSFL, and the consternation of the community was warranted.

Official Response

It is of concern that radioactive waste may have become airborne during the fires, but it is almost more troubling that the DTSC was not prepared to immediately monitor the environment at the site and report to the public with concrete evidence, knowing what dangerous substances exist on the property. Soon after the fire began at the SSFL, the Department Of Energy (DOE) and Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) assured the public of their safety and insisted there were no additional risks to public health due to the fire starting on the SSFL. But there was no data provided to substantiate these claims. This is typical of the behavior we’ve witnessed from the DTSC for the last fifteen years- they’ve protected Boeing, NASA and the DOE while blatantly putting the community at risk. When data was finally produced weeks later, the methodology and thoroughness of the data provided drew even more criticism from experts.

Outside Help

Scientists and experts knowledgeable in toxic and nuclear waste, who understood the manner in which chemical and radioactive contaminants accumulate in plant life, knew that there was an increased risk posed from the burning of the contaminated site. Many worried over the very real possibility that contamination was released through the burning of vegetation on the SSFL and further dispersed by the smoke and wind.

While government officials attempted to placate the public with seemingly baseless assurances, Fairewinds Energy Education quickly organized a sampling protocol and chain of command for the collection of soil and dust samples from residents in the areas surrounding the SSFL and the Woolsey Fire burn areas. Their mission was to help provide answers for the community by assessing whether the soil samples would test positive for radionuclide isotopes migrating from the SSFL. Fairewinds conducted extensive data collection and testing in Fukushima following the 2011 tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdowns, and their expertise and generosity was invaluable as locals had no other environmental agency, private nor public, willing to fund independent sampling from private residences at no cost to the residents following the Woolsey Fire.

Continued exposure

The data from Fairewinds has not yet been published and released to the public, but we have learned more about contamination moving offsite at the SSFL after the fire. The SSFL and surrounding areas received record amounts of precipitation during the months following the Woolsey Fire and that means an increased threat of even more contamination moving offsite at the SSFL and yes, there is data to support that assertion.  While the following data is arguably not independent, as it was presented by a panel funded by the SSFL landowner The Boeing Company, it is incriminating. 

At a meeting held by The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) in May, 2019 to discuss the discharge of contamination in runoff water at the site, it was revealed that out of only 45 samples collected from outfalls at the site from October through April, 57 exceedances were noted. Compared with the last decade of data on outfall exceedences, this was an enormous and alarming increase. Apparently, the DTSC was wrong about there not being a greater risk of contamination moving off-site after the Woolsey Fire. Surprise, surprise.

To support our efforts for a 100% cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Lab, please sign and share our petition at www.change.org/SantaSusana.