By Michael Collins

LA Weekly – January 11, 2000

Rocketdyne Runaround

This week, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an unprecedented invitation to community activists to tour three former Rocketdyne nuclear buildings to observe an environmental survey for radioactive contamination.

The media was invited as well to the site in the hills between the Simi and San Fernando valleys all except Offbeat, whose previous coverage slamming the nuke cleanup was deemed by Rocketdyne PR head Dan Beck too “obviously imbalanced” to allow our participation.

No matter, we got a full report from activists on hand. And the news wasn’t good. Committee To Bridge The Gap director Joe Lyou said that Rocketdyne demolished two of five buildings and part of a third before the inspection began.

One such structure, Building 28, had been found to be as hot as two to four times the background radiation levels, according to a 1976 Rocketdyne document. The razed rubble was shipped to a municipal landfill that was not designated for nuclear waste.

Rocketdyne’s environmental honcho, Steve Lafflam, admitted that several trailers at the nuclear facility were turned over to schools for reuse before the EPA inspection began without even being sampled for radioactive contamination.

EPA official Gregg Dempsey, who plans a comprehensive survey of Rocketdyne’s nuclear area, said that it will take two more years to complete testing of the surrounding soils.

Most of the nuke buildings will have been demolished by that time, before the public has a chance to know what kind of danger they might have posed to public health, critics contend.