EnviroReporter.com – October 20, 2009
The mystery of Runkle Canyon Creek’s heavy metal soil and water contamination may be simple to a fault – the Burro Flats Fault to be exact. The earthquake rift runs the length of the former Rocketdyne lab, east to west, and dips into Runkle Canyon and turns north into the city of Simi Valley.
The Burro Flats Fault which sculpted this beautiful land of vernal pools and soaring cliffs may also be the main path that pollutants have found their way down into Runkle Canyon where a citizens group called the Radiation Rangers discovered arsenic, nickel, vanadium and other poisonous metals in the creek water and soil in 2007. The results were subsequently verified by city sampling and tests.
EnviroReporter.com has uncovered evidence that suggests that a Cold War era facility at the neighboring Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), and an adjacent chemical dump, could be the source of Runkle Canyon creek’s heavy metal pollution. Thousands of pages of documents about the site, located in the former nuclear research “Area IV” of the 2,850-acre lab and which sits on top of the Burro Flats Fault, reveal extensive contamination.
Recent studies at the proposed nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada and at the Department of Energy-funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have shown that contaminants readily flow down and through earthquake faults. In 2005, the late former state geologist under Governor Reagan, Jim Slosson, confirmed to EnviroReporter.com that the faults in this specific area of the lab were transporting groundwater goo offsite.
The Empire State Atomic Development Authority, or ESADA, sat in the westernmost corner of Area IV of Boeing’s lab on 1.5 acres. The dismantled site is undergoing a costly remediation for a host of toxic waste including arsenic, vanadium, boron, glycol ethers and Dowanol-PM that was used to clean piping and components at the infamous Sodium Reactor Experiment or SRE.
Hundreds of leaking barrels of chemicals have been removed from the unsecured site near an open gate leading to Runkle Canyon. Piping covered by ripped tarps litters the deserted foundations of the ESADA, perhaps the same pipes used to blow apart testing tolerances for use in the SRE.
Late last year, hardware from the contaminated facility was also found outside of the lab perimeter (Image 0036) by EnviroReporter.com in the highlands above Runkle Canyon. Offsite dumping like this, along with the discovery of the contamination connection along the fault line, doesn’t surprise one of Radiation Rangers.
“We’ve always figured that this stuff was coming down the hill from Rocketdyne,” says the Reverend John Southwick. “But now we know from where and how it got here. That’s astonishing. But I’m not surprised that no one has put goo and goo together considering Boeing doesn’t want to be on the hook for any contaminants on KB Home property and KB is determined to develop downhill from a place that had meltdowns.”
There were ten nuclear reactors in Area IV. Six had major accidents including the Sodium Reactor Experiment which melted down in 1959 spewing, by some estimates, hundreds of times more radiation from the uncontained reactor building than the more infamous Three Mile Island meltdown did twenty years later.
The lasting effects of radiological and chemical contamination at Area IV, and the surrounding communities, are still present today and this section of SSFL is undergoing a characterization and cleanup that will cost hundreds of millions and take until at least 2017. Huge fines have been assessed the company that now owns the site, Boeing, for contaminated offsite discharges into the headwaters of the Los Angeles River, where most of Area IV drains to as well.