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Michael Eyerly
Michael Eyerly
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Independent Study Confirms Chemical Contamination from Rocketdyne Facility Continues to Threaten Simi Valley

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On July 13, 1959 fuel rods in a nuclear reactor located at Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory melted down, releasing radioactive gases into the atmosphere. It was, perhaps, the single largest accidental release of radioactive emissions in this county, and very few people knew of it until 1979. That is because Rocketdyne, and its parent company Boeing Co., kept the nuclear accident a secret from the public. In fact, at the time of the nuclear accident, Rocketdyne officials released a statement saying “no release of radioactive materials to the plant of the environs occurred, and operating personnel were not exposes to harmful conditions.” It was not until 1979, through investigations conducted by a group of UCLA graduate students, did the truth of the nuclear accident became publically known.

Now, nearly a half of a century later an independent commission of scientists has determined that the radioactive release may be greater than previously suspected. And, incredibly, some 47 years after the fact, Boeing Co. is still covering up and withholding the truth from the public. An independent advisory panel of scientists created in the early 1990’s just released its report, in which the panel concluded that the radioactive emissions from the accident appear to have been much greater than previously thought and may have resulted in as many as 1,800 cases of cancer. Incredibly, the advisory panel’s efforts in evaluating the deleterious health effects of the nuclear accident were even today hampered by Boeing’s non-cooperation.

“This lack of candor … makes characterization of the potential health impacts of past accidents and releases extremely difficult,” the panel concluded.

For example, when scientists requested simple weather data in order to try to determine how far radioactive gases may have traveled from the Rocketdyne facility, Boeing officials refused the request, asserting that the information was “proprietary – a trade secret.” A fine example of corporate responsibility, no doubt.

What the independent panel did conclude, without a doubt, is that rocket engine testing conducted at the facility over the years has caused soil and groundwater contamination. In particular, perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, migrated off site and into populated areas. Attorney Helen Zukin of Kiesel, Boucher & Larson, LLP previously contributed a very informative article concerning the dangers of perchlorate contamination.