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Sen. Pavley Responds to Historic Santa Susana Clean-up Agreement

AGOURA HILLS, CA – Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) today praised community activists as well as state and federal agencies for the historic agreement to clean up the Santa Susana Field Lab, one of the most contaminated sites in the United States.

“After years of hard work, today we witnessed a historic agreement between California and two federal agencies – the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – for cleaning up Santa Susana Field Laboratory, one of the most polluted places in the entire United States,” said Senator Pavley. “I want to thank community activists for their tireless efforts to bring about this cleanup. I also want to thank Governor Schwarzenegger, DOE Secretary Steve Chu, Senator Barbara Boxer, former Senator Sheila Kuehl, and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley for their persistent and very effective work on this agreement. I must also single out the extraordinary work of Cal-EPA Secretary Linda Adams, her staff, and the cleanup experts at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).”

The Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) is located 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles in southeastern Ventura County, near the crest of the Simi Hills at the western border of the San Fernando Valley. A former rocket engine test and nuclear research facility, the 2,849-acre field laboratory has been the focus of a comprehensive environmental investigation and cleanup program, conducted by Boeing, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and overseen by the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The clean-up agreement covers DOE’s 290-acre portion of the facility and will fully implement SB 990, legislation authored by former State Senator Sheila Kuehl, who represented Senate District 23, from 2000-2008.

“This great accomplishment, overwhelmingly supported with comments received from the public, will become even more meaningful when the Boeing Company steps up and agrees to a similar agreement with California and the federal agencies,” Pavley said. “As a landowner at the site, Boeing is responsible for assisting with this cleanup. I join the public and the many elected officials at the federal, state, and local level who are demanding that Boeing do the right thing. I will continue to work with all of those parties in 2011.”

This enforceable agreement, when implemented, will result in the removal of toxics to the level that existed before 30,000 rocket tests occurred, resulting in tons of deadly chemicals contaminating the air and soil.

“For far too long the neighbors of the Santa Susana Field Lab have suffered from incredibly difficult illnesses,” said Pavley. “I’m thrilled that the community will finally receive what they deserve; the basic guarantee of clean water and uncontaminated soil.”



State and federal governments signed agreements today to clean up toxic contamination at Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), a former nuclear reactor and rocket testing facility in the Simi Hills overlooking the western San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley.

The clean-up agreements were lauded by Committee to Bridge the Gap and the Natural Resources Defense Council, two organizations that have worked for decades with the nearby communities seeking thorough site remediation.

SSFL housed ten atomic reactors, four of which suffered accidents, including a partial fuel meltdown in 1959, as well as tens of thousands of rocket tests. Site activities resulted in widespread radioactive and chemical contamination.

“Today’s announcement signifies a new, cleaner future for the Santa Susana site, the nearby residents, and all of Southern California,” said Geoffrey Fettus, Senior Project Attorney for NRDC’s Nuclear Program. “This chronically toxic and radioactively contaminated facility has been wrangled over for more than 20 years, making this cleanup long overdue but very welcome. We congratulate the signatories and look forward to seeing the cleanup of all the contamination move forward.”

The agreements were executed today by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and NASA, and cover the DOE and NASA portions of SSFL.

“Praise goes to the dedicated community members who, year after frustrating year, never gave up in their efforts to get the federal agencies to meet their obligations to clean up the toxic mess they made,” said Daniel Hirsch, President of the Committee to Bridge the Gap. “Today’s signing is a monumental victory for everyday people who prevailed against powerful institutions and great odds in their fight to protect their families. It has national significance.”

Long-time resident Dawn Kowalski, who lives just beneath the SSFL facility, said, “What a huge victory. Thank you DOE and NASA for stepping up to the plate and restoring the site. Our neighborhood the Susana Knolls is nestled below the SSFL field lab and has lived in the shadow of this contaminated site for decades. We have fought to have the site cleaned up for over twenty years. It has been a long and at many times a fierce battle.

“Now we just wait for Boeing to do the right thing and sign a similar consent agreement and clean up their portion of the site. But let us not overshadow the glorious victory of today. DOE and NASA have now shown their concern for us their neighbors and for that we applaud them.

“We will soon be able to fall asleep at night and not worry about the contamination on the hill oozing down the mountain, or blowing off in the Santa Ana winds to rest on unsuspecting souls.

December 6th is a historic day for nuclear and toxic waste cleanup and Southern California. Hooray.”


Members of the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, who have worked for two decades to achieve today’s historic development, expressed great joy over the signing of the breakthrough agreements with the Department of Energy and NASA for the cleanup of contamination at the Santa Susana Field Lab. SSFL is a polluted nuclear and rocket testing facility in the hills overlooking Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and the western San Fernando Valley. Site of a partial nuclear meltdown, other reactor accidents, illegal disposal of hazardous material, and thousands of rocket tests, the radioactive and chemical contamination has long been of concern to those who live beneath the site. The Coalition has fought since 1989 to get the site cleaned up.

Comments from Coalition members on this long-sought victory:

“Wow, this is a day we have all been waiting for and a day many told us would never happen and why not just give up. Now after 21 years there will be an agreement for this cleanup.

We have attended more meetings than we can count, our children have grown and now have children of their own but finally a real cleanup. I thank DOE and NASA for finally doing the right thing.

I guess the message to the Boeing Company is: now is the time to get on board, do the right thing and agree to a similar deal to the one DOE and NASA have signed. It is long past time to get the site cleaned up.”

Marie Mason

“This has been a long time coming. For over two decades we have been waiting for this day to come.

Now we can put the past behind us and work together with the Department of Energy and NASA for a clean Santa Susana Field Laboratory, which will only benefit the future generations here in our communities.”

Holly Huff

“In 1989 the communities beneath the Santa Susana Field Lab learned that nuclear work had been done in the hills above us, that in 1959 there had been a partial nuclear meltdown, and that there was widespread radioactive and chemical contamination.

From 1989 on, community activists have attended endless meetings, have ploughed through piles of information, and have been given many broken promises, but no concrete action.

On December 6, 2010, finally, after much controversy, the deserving public will have what has been long fought for – binding agreements signed by two of the responsible parties – Department of Energy and NASA – for a cleanup to meet the standards of SB990, the state cleanup law. This is a huge victory for which we have long worked.

Now we can only wait, hope, and pray that Boeing will finally take the right moral action to protect the health of the present communities and to insure a healthy environment for future generations by making the same commitment for the remaining part of SSFL.”

Barbara Johnson


Oak Park Residents Cheer Agreement to Clean up Meltdown Site

Unknowingly raising my three children near the site of a nuclear disaster has been without doubt the most disturbing part of my life. The signing of this agreement means that someday children nearby will grow up without the danger of radioactive and chemical contamination, and I am incredibly grateful to the DOE, NASA, the DTSC, the EPA and all other people responsible.

Cindi Gortner

I’m gratified that our leadership in California and Washington has finally seen fit to move forward with this process. I hope these first important steps will eventually lead to a clean, safe environment for our kids to enjoy.

Eric Estrin

On behalf of the residents of Oak Park and surrounding communities I am very pleased that an agreement has been signed to clean up the contaminated SSFL site to background levels. I express heartfelt thanks to Dan Hirsch of Committee to Bridge the Gap and our elected officials past and present including Fran Pavley, Julia Browley, Linda Parks and Barbara Boxer for the brave leadership that has brought us to this historic agreement. Also special thanks are due to the many activists including our own Oak Park High School students who have worked toward this cause and never gave up hope.

Jay Kaptiz

25 Years of Award-Winning SSFL/Rocketdyne Reporting

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One Comment

  1. What are/were the “natural” levels?
    What are the radiation levels now?
    What does Boeing say the levels should be?

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