Cleanup supporters protest controversial move to reassess past Rocketdyne cancer studies at request of anti-cleanup petition; government denies health risks even as new childhood cancer cluster emerges.
- ATSDR accepts illegitimate petition to deny SSFL health impacts and sabotage cleanup
- Community meeting turns the heat on state Toxics department, which fumbles in response to questions about cleanup standards and cancer risks
- ATSDR says it will work with Boeing’s SSFL CAG, soon to be emboldened by an anonymous $32,000 donor
- Boeing official says SSFL will be okay to hike just once a week
News & Analysis
Protesters demanding full cleanup of the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) demonstrated outside a September 8 government meeting in West Hills, a Los Angeles neighborhood in the western San Fernando Valley.
“Cleanup not cover-up!” the demonstrators chanted holding signs that said “Stop Denying SSFL Health Impacts” and “NO to Boeing Astroturfing & Greenwashing.”
One placard read “ATSDR Go Home” echoing sentiments toward the controversial federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which had come to the meeting at the invitation of the state EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the lead regulatory agency on the SSFL cleanup.
Television cameras whirred as yet another battle was set to take place. Longtime cleanup advocates said this time, they were protesting a brazen attempt by Boeing, the Department of Energy, ATSDR and DTSC to rewrite Rocketdyne’s sordid history of nuclear meltdowns, radiation burning and extensive chemical contamination that has caused cancer on and offsite as reported in The Fallout in February 2006.
To be sure, the agencies and the parties responsible for the SSFL cleanup – Department of Energy (DOE), NASA, Boeing – have employed many wily and disingenuous attempts to avoid cleanup over the years. But in the eyes of community cleanup activists, one of the most outrageous is ATSDR’s recent acceptance of what they call a phony petition intended to have the agency refute previous SSFL health studies, including ones it funded in 2006 and 2007, that link Rocketdyne with worker and offsite cancers. The protesters said they were also there to call out DTSC for slacking off on promises to clean up Rocketdyne to previously agreed upon levels and those dictated by local Ventura County zoning where the lab is located.
In August, ATSDR announced that it had accepted a “citizen’s petition” to re-assess previous studies of health impacts related to SSFL and to weigh in on cleanup “options.” Problem is, the “citizen’s petition” turns out to be have been submitted under false pretenses by a former lab employee, Woodland Hills resident Abe Weitzberg.
Weitzberg asks ATSDR to refute independent health studies that found evidence of harm, and “re-state” the conclusions of a 1999 ATSDR study that was inconclusive by design. He also asks the agency weigh in against the SSFL cleanup. But there are no cleanup “options” – the DOE and NASA signed legally-binding agreements to cleanup their portions of SSFL to background levels of contamination. Boeing was supposed to cleanup to a similar standard, at least that’s what DTSC said in 2010 before Governor Jerry Brown’s administration started reversing the course on cleanup.
Among many tall tales piled on by Weitzberg is that his petition was submitted on behalf of the Boeing-supported SSFL Community Advisory Group, a collection of anti-cleanup agitators who lobby for nearly nothing to be cleaned up at the site as EnviroReporter.com exposed in December 2012 in Operation Astroturf and again in March 2014 with Truth or Scare?. Turns out, the CAG never officially approved the petition, and by their own definition, Weitzberg violated the DTSC CAG rules by doing so on his own while claiming to represent the CAG.
Weitzberg boasts his credentials, including a “study” of his own which cherry-picked previous studies to find – voilà – the incredibly toxic nuclear and chemical contamination at Rocketdyne never hurt anyone. One of his claims to fame is working on a space reactor program, the SNAP 8 experimental reactor that failed in the 1950s and saw 80 percent of its reactor’s core damaged, releasing an unknown amount of radiation into the surrounding environment. Weitzberg also worked for the DOE which is responsible for the radiological cleanup of its part of SSFL, so-called Area IV.
“As the nefarious writer of the petition whose listed all the correct things that were said about it [sic], I will ask ATSDR if I will be given an opportunity to correctly state that the petition resulted with the support of the CAG and based on the request of one of the independent investigators who followed the ATSDR study and came up with different results we had discussing [sic],” Weitzberg said at the meeting.
“I’m talking about with Dr. Cohen. He and I were discussing discrepancies between the ATSDR report and his report and the context was to have a neutral panel of experts come to the community, sit down in public, and discuss among themselves how best to resolve that issue. Dr. Cohen said he would participate.”
According to documents obtained by EnviroReporter.com, none of Weitzberg’s posturing was even remotely true.
Weitzberg wrote in his June 2014 letter to ATSDR that his petition was from the SSFL Community Advisory Group (CAG), the officially recognized citizens group recognized by DTSC despite its being outed as a Boeing supported astroturf front group. But in an August 31, 2015 email Alec Uzemeck, CAG co-chair, says “Abe Weitzberg communicated with the ATSDR on his own and developed their interest and commitment to do a SSFL health study.” Uzemeck also says that “[T]he ATSDR was not a CAG action.”
The notion that Weitzberg convinced one of authors of one of the studies he so desperately wants to discredit, UCLA’s Dr. Yoram Cohen, to help him rip the studies was also factually incorrect, to put it politely. Cohen says so himself in a September 8, 2015 letter to the heads of ATSDR and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which oversees ATSDR.
“In June of last year, ATSDR received a letter from an individual, which questioned results of past studies, including ours, and criticized the cleanup agreements entered into by DOE, NASA, and DTSC in 2010 as supposedly requiring too much protection of public health,” wrote the three authors of the two studies Weitzberg targeted, Hal Morgenstern, PhD at the University of Michigan, Adrienne Katner, PhD now with Louisiana State University and Yoram Cohan, PhD at UCLA. “Representations made in the petition about our research and positions were misleading and disingenuous.”
Far from being buddies with Cohen, as Weitzberg implies, the doctor was harassed by the aggressive Rocketdyne cleanup opponent. “We must also inform you that if indeed the petitioner is the individual in question, he has in the last several years harassed each of us, at times quite aggressively,” the three respected medical researchers wrote. “ATSDR’s role should be to protect researchers who undertake work for it from such harassment, not facilitate it.”
“[W]e believe acceptance of this petition would be at odds with ATSDR’s mission “to prevent exposure and adverse human health effects and diminished quality of life associated with exposures to hazardous substances from waste sites unplanned releases, and other sources of pollution present in the environment,” the researchers concluded. “This petitioner does not hide his true intention very well, which is to discredit past research and relax current cleanup agreements. In addition, the petitioner’s conflicts of interest appear questionable. We respectfully urge ATSDR to reverse its decision.”
This is not the first time that Cohen and Morgenstern have faced the power of the polluter. In 2007, Morgenstern responded to Boeing’s mischaracterization of his study in a letter to then-State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), stating:
“I would like to make it clear to your Committee that Boeing’s claim made about the conclusion of our study is false. We did not conclude that there was no excess cancer in the communities surrounding SSFL. Furthermore, Boeing’s quotes from our report were taken out of context, and they failed to report our specific findings that contradicted their claim.
In the main analyses of our study, we compared the incidence rate of specific cancers in adult residents living within 2 miles and 2-5 miles from SSFL with adult residents living more than 5 miles from SSFL in both Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. For the period 1988 through 1995, we found that the incidence rate was more than 60% greater among residents living within 2 miles of SSFL than among residents living more than 5 miles from SSFL for the following types of cancer: thyroid, upper aerodigestive tract (oral and nasal cavities, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus), bladder, and blood and lymph tissue (leukemias, lymphomas, and multiple myelemas).
For the period 1996 through 2002, we found that the incidence rate of thyroid cancer was more than 60% greater among residents living within 2 miles of SSFL than for residents living more than 5 miles from SSFL. The magnitude and consistency of the thyroid finding for both periods is especially provocative because of evidence from other studies linking thyroid cancer with environmental exposures originating at SSFL and found in the surrounding communities.”
The SSFL studies’ authors weren’t the only ones alarmed by this unprecedented ATSDR action to certify a clearly suspect petition to dismiss independent studies. The SSFL Epidemiological Oversight Panel, which was founded in the early 1990s, expressed dismay and noted the precedent that would be broken against federal interference in studies of federally polluted sites.
“The legislators obtained from DOE approximately $1.5 million for a worker study, to be overseen by the Panel, with DOE having no say about the choice of investigators or the content of their work,” panel members wrote CDC September 8. “This was a remarkable new model for conducting epidemiologic studies, with the federal government funding but staying out of the research, which instead was conducted by outside researchers with strong measures to assure their independence.”
“The petition in question here would have ATSDR breach that quarter-century understanding,” the panel concluded. “Furthermore, the petition quite inappropriately asks ATSDR to repudiate carefully conducted research paid for by ATSDR a decade ago and which ATSDR reviewed at the time. The request also asks ATSDR to urge the breaking of cleanup agreements entered into by other agencies and cleanup requirements issued by the site’s regulator, far outside ATSDR’s scope of proper involvement. And lastly, the request isn’t a genuine request from community members concerned about their health, but comes from an individual associated with the Responsible Parties active in efforts to relieve them of their cleanup obligations. These simply are inappropriate roles for ATSDR.”
Citizens who support total remediation of the toxic land, like the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition (RCC) which formed in 1989, say “ATSDR’s acceptance of Weitzberg’s petition is disgraceful.”
“ATSDR’s interference in SSFL will not help us,” RCC wrote to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as ATSDR and CDC, September 8. “It will only hurt. SSFL contamination must be cleaned up so that current and future generations are protected. We have already experienced decades of denials and delays. We have health studies; we have a cleanup agreement. The petition was illegitimate and ATSDR’s grant of it was illegitimate. The petition was a patent attempt by someone with ties to the Responsible Parties to help them avoid their cleanup obligations. ATSDR should reverse its decision to accept the petition, and should stay out of our community.”
The community is furious. But even getting more than an earful about it at the Corporate Pointe meeting, ATSDR’s Libby Vianu told Weitzberg he had gotten his wish.
“If I understand correctly, your question is in summarizing what was actually in the petition request letter and you’re asking us are we going to come” she said to Weitzberg at the Corporate Pointe meeting. “And the answer is we’ve answered that. We sent an acceptance letter back to you and it is now and has been distributed and where we are now is in that process of coming to the community, collecting data, so the answer is yes we’re doing this work and we’re in the process.”
That ATSDR would accept the Weitzberg petition to undo studies already paid for and reviewed by ATSDR may be outrageous and a misuse of taxpayer dollars, but it is hardly surprising.
The agency gained notoriety for its polluter kowtowing and hostility to the public in 2009 when a report by the Congressional Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight called “The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR): Problems in the Past, Potential in the Future?” showed that ATSDR’s endeavors to “deny, delay, minimize, trivialize or ignore legitimate concerns and health considerations of local communities and well respected scientists and medical professionals.”
This prompted subcommittee chairman Congressman Brad Miller (D- North Carolina) to say at a March 2009 subcommittee hearing that ATSDR seemed to “please industries and government agencies” and called agency reports “jackleg assessments saying ‘not to worry.”
Over six years later and ATSDR, under its new director since December 2014, Pat Breysse, PhD, doesn’t appear to have changed its spots. Indeed, ATSDR seems content to break its own regulations according to information obtained by EnviroReporter.com.
Weitzberg’s petition calls for the repudiation of the two SSFL cancer studies which is in violation of ATSDR regulations (42 CFR Part 90.4) which say that petitions must include “A statement providing information that individuals have been exposed to a hazardous substance and that the probable source is a release, or sufficient information to allow the Administrator to make such a finding.” This is the opposite of what Weitzberg requested, and under false pretenses at that.
ATSDR’s Vianu explained to the Corporate Pointe audience that the agency approves 30 to 40 citizen’s petitions for help investigating polluted sites. What Vianu didn’t cop to was that she was part of a decision to reject a legitimate petition in July 2014 to investigate radiological and chemical contamination at George Air Force Base in Victorville, California 75 miles to the northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
“ATSDR reviewed the information you provided in your website (http://www.georgeafb.info/),” the agency wrote to petitioner Frank Vera, who says he was exposed to radiation at the base in 1973 and has been on a mission to have it cleaned up for years. “ATSDR also requested and received documents from the US Air Force that provided information concerning the groundwater contamination beneath the golf course that was not described in the 1998 PHA [Public Health Assessment]. After reviewing the information from both sources, ATSDR concluded that the additional information does not change the conclusions or recommendations presented in the original PHA. As a result, ATSDR will not conduct any additional activities to update the 1998 PHA.”
In other words, the government will go with what the government says – despite the evidence gathered by citizens concerned with their own health. This is precisely why the longtime community members near SSFL fought for independent studies, and object to ATSDR involvement in their community.
The rejection letter to Vera also confirms another objection by the SSFL community – ATSDR does not have the experience or jurisdiction to weigh in on cleanups. ATSDR states, “It is also important to note that ATSDR is a non-regulatory public health agency and does not investigate or evaluate actions or activities conducted by other agencies.” So by its own admission, ATSDR has no standing to provide any “opinion” on the SSFL cleanup.
Feds Fob Off the Public
Newbies to the world of radiation and toxic waste policy could be understandably confused by the notion that the federal government deliberately subverts its own abilities to protect the public from accidental or deliberate contamination releases. In fact, much of federal policy seems counter-intuitive as two recent examples illustrate.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced September 8 that, after five years and $1.5 million deciding whether to study whether living next to a nuclear power plant could be hazardous to health, it would not do the probe because it would take too long and be too expensive.
Californian’s living in the shadow of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, built near major earthquake faults near San Luis Obispo, and the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station hard on San Clemente’s southern border will never know how much they are being exposed to radiation regularly – and legally – vented from nuclear reactors.
The NRC said that the study would be “impractical, given the significant amount of time and resources needed and the agency’s current budget constraints.” The cost over the decades it would take to perform the investigation was $60 million, a trifle in the tens of billions the nuclear industry will pay into the fee-supported NRC over the same period.
Another recent example of federal contempt for the American public was the late-August 2015 US Environmental Protection Agency removal of beta radiation graphs monitoring the most dangerous, and almost always manmade, radiation in the air coast to coast. Organized for easy access by this online news organization at RadNet Air Monitoring, these beta graphs were the first line defense for knowing where it’s hot or not.
Now the graphs have been replaced with a poorly functioning portal into a confusing mishmash of useless data and feel good copy about radiation in general but, most importantly, no accessible beta graphs like the ones we made understandable since 2013. Privately run radiation networks, like EnviroReporter.com‘s nine Radiation Stations in the US and Australia, can’t come close to the potential effectiveness of RadNet especially in this new age of deadly adversaries.
Dirt and Money
None of this is news to Dan Hirsch, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap who has fought for the cleanup of SSFL for decades. He knows the 2,850-acre lab is grossly polluted with radiological and chemical contamination and home to at least three partial nuclear reactor core meltdowns including the 1959 Sodium Reactor Experiment meltdown that released hundreds of times more radiation from its unfortified building than the 1979 Three Mile Island partial meltdown disaster did in Pennsylvania.
In 1989, Hirsch and the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition succeeded in shutting down DOE’s nuclear research activities and worked with local elected officials to form the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Work Group, which presents information and analysis to the community regarding SSFL contamination and cleanup.
Eventually, the community’s hard work began to pay off in getting the site remediated back to some semblance of normal, considering its heavily industrialized and poisonous past. In 2010, Administrative Orders on Consent were signed by DTSC, DOE and NASA to clean their parts of SSFL to background levels of radiation and chemicals. According to the pre-Governor Brown DTSC, Boeing is obligated to clean up to the agricultural standards for which it is zoned, which would also bring the place back to normal.
The community thought they had finally gotten through with all the battles, studies, reports and public meetings, as well as a host of diseases and cancers many hold were caused by the lab’s cornucopia of goo. It was not to be. Jerry Brown became governor and with him came Boeing’s army of lobbyists. DTSC became a fully “captured agency,” withdrew Work Group support and sanctioned the Boeing CAG. Even with further exposure last year as greenwashing tools in Truth or Scare?, anti-cleanup zealots have been enabled by corrupt government allies in DTSC and ATSDR.
And, they may soon be further emboldened by mysterious money funding. The SSFL CAG recently announced it is due to receive an anonymous donation of $32,000, “no strings attached.” The CAG leadership’s withholding of the identity of the donor caused one member, Elizabeth Harris to resign. Harris was concerned the anonymous funding could jeopardize her publicly funded research as a community psychologist. The CAG says the donor’s identity may be revealed at the end of the year, when its newly formed foundation files its taxes. It remains then to been seen whether the deep-pocketed donor is affiliated with Boeing, or Native American gambling interests, such as the Chumash, who have launched their own bid to obtain the polluted property as EnviroReporter.com reported in China Syndrome Town.
Hirsch knew all this as he listened to the first DTSC presenter, staff toxicologist Donald Greenlee, speak of risk assessments in careful parsed language. DTSC announced rather vaguely that “[T]he meeting will be on how risk assessment is done at cleanup sites and to answer questions from the community regarding risk assessments at SSFL.” When Greenlee finished, the Corporate Pointe crowd seemed more confused than when he started. Not Hirsch.
“I heard in your presentation that DTSC has now broken the commitments that it made in 2010 – in writing – that the Boeing property would be cleaned up to the agricultural, the rural residential standard, not suburban residential which is much weaker,” Hirsch said as the first called questioner of Greenlee’s presentation. “You folks recently asked Ventura County, and they confirmed that it is zone and planned designation is agriculture and the director has said she is going to require cleanup to those standards. Are you breaking the commitment of 2010 or are you taking the direction from your director?”
DTSC officials appeared dumbstruck, though they knew full well what Hirsch was talking about. In its 2010 response to comments on the AOCs (then called the Agreements in Principle), DTSC said, “Even absent SB 990, DTSC, in implementing its cleanup authorities, would defer to local governments’ land use plans and zoning decisions. In this instance, the Ventura County zoning maps specify that the site and much of the surrounding area are currently zoned as rural agricultural.”
Before the moderator could cut Hirsch off, the nuclear watchdog turned to the audience to explain.
“Let me make sure everyone understands,” Hirsch said. “They promised in 2010 to clean up all the contamination at Boeing. The administration changed. Boeing hired a bunch of lobbyists. They are very close to the current governor and all of a sudden they shifted to a standard that would allow not clean up all of it but to clean up two percent of it, leave all the rest of it there and that’s simply because of the power of that polluter. And you’re not getting a straight answer and I think you can see that in the body language. They broke the commitment made in 2010 and they want to leave almost all of the contamination there because of the power of that polluter. And you’re going to pay the price.”
Once A Week Park
That additional price may already be being paid, voluntarily. For several years, Boeing has held tours of SSFL that have attracted hundreds of participants. EnviroReporter.com has obtained releases that the company has required visitors to sign before being allowed on the property which relinquish any rights the signer might want if suing over any adverse health effects, including cancer and death. The releases also sign away the visitors’ rights over their image recreating at the lab that hasn’t been cleaned up.
Duping people into visiting a contaminated site as part of a slick trick to use them to show how supposedly safe it is already is pretty shameless. What Boeing didn’t count on was that one of its own employees, David Dassler, would reveal what the real risks might be on one of these feel-good tours when he told SSFL worker advocate and cleanup activist, Bonne Klea, that after cleanup it would be safe enough for one hike a week.
“That really stuck in my mind because that would be such a limited time that he said it would be safe, one hike a week,” Klea told EnviroReporter.com. Klea, who has earned the moniker The Atomic Avenger due to her decades-long fight for injured nuclear workers compensation for folks harmed by places like SSFL, heard Dassler say this on a January 31, 2015 bus tour of SSFL which was organized for the West Hills Neighborhood Council (though protested by cleanup advocates as violating California’s Brown Act open meeting laws).
That estimation didn’t jibe with the presentation Greenlee had just presented and this reporter asked him about it a couple of questioners after Hirsch had lowered the boom.
“I don’t think he meant hiking only once a week,” Greenlee offered even though Dassler and Klea were in the audience and there was no objection to how the incident was related. The follow-up question also went unanswered: Would future site owners be required to have all visitors sign a comprehensive liability waiver too to be able to trod upon some future open space park?
Greenlee couldn’t say. Future SSFL visitors might be best served by naming the future open space “Once A Week Park.” As for the folks who live near SSFL year-round, tough luck. Wind and rain will bring the once-a-week contamination down the hill to them and there will be nothing to prevent them from being exposed.
Hiking on land as polluted as SSFL, with just two percent of it cleaned up under the scenario Hirsch showed, could cause quite a hot foot if one were to step in the wrong place. As EnviroReporter.com exposed in March 2012 with Radiation Readings Soar at Rocketdyne*, some locations in Area IV of SSFL are thousands of times more radioactive than normal background.
Not only did EnviroReporter.com expose these incredibly hot spots, it knows exactly where they are. Should DOE manage to not remediate these vast hot areas over background back to normal, we’ll find them when Once A Week Park or Hot Slots Casino opens, film them and share the videos on our website.
It is not as outlandish as it sounds. As of this week, according to the Colorado Health Department, it’s safe to go hiking near nuclear waste at the Rocky Flats Plant, now re-branded the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge. The plant produced nuclear weapons from 1952 to 1992. The FBI raided the place in 1989 over environmental crimes. It remains heavily contaminated with plutonium buried in the dirt. But you can go hiking there now just like you can at SSFL.
Re-branding is something Boeing knows about too as it refers to SSFL as “Santa Susana” without “Field Laboratory” which sounds like a song and certainly is less chemical sounding. But whatever you call the old Rocketdyne lab, the polluter and its surrogates are counting on memories of meltdowns to fade even if the radiation, chemicals, heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins haven’t.
That may seem like a sound, if immoral, plan but it doesn’t take into account the wild card of a new group of local mothers who blame the Santa Susana Field Laboratory for their children’s rare cancers and showed up at the Corporate Pointe Meeting.
“We’re new because my daughter is still in treatment,” said Melissa Bumstead, who was accompanied by five other mothers, who had either lost children to extremely rare cancers or have kids suffering from them. “I haven’t had the emotional energy to be thinking outside of our survival for the last two years. Just barely at that point right now. Pretty fragile emotionally. I’ll say that and some of the other moms are in the same place.
“We’ve just finished treatment and here’s the thing. We all live, we all live pretty close. We go to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and we started finding each other in the halls and started saying ‘You live in my area. That’s impossible.’ Cancer, child pediatric cancer has a national average of 0.003 percent. Extremely rare.”
The auditorium was silent. It felt like the big room was holding its breath. Even the astroturfers listened as if they knew something was coming, something that could upset them and their plans.
“So we started to map out,” Bumstead said as she handed Greenlee a map with red dots on it. “These are the people I know by name that have been diagnosed in the last two weeks. These are our friends and so I’m not a scientist, I’m not a statistician but when we started to see this map and how close we are we started to say what is the national average and this cluster that we’re seeing so close to Fallbrook Avenue? We started to feel unsafe about that.”
With good reason. There were ten red dots on that map represented ten children who live three to five miles from her house.
“My daughter has a cancer so rare that one in a million children will get it,” Bumstead said turning to point at her fellow mothers. “We have three cases of neuroblastoma, extremely rare childhood cancers and they are almost in a close enough area where they can shake hands with each other. What we’re going to start looking for; we’re going to start coming to these meetings more, we’re having a hard time getting the information we need.”
That information would not be coming from the assembled DTSC team. Bumstead knew what she had found was extremely significant but right there, in front of friends, strangers and government officials, she realized that she was going to get no help from the government, a prospect that panicked her in real time.
“There’s some research done by UC Berkeley that is starting to connect dust samples to leukemia and they think because children are on the floor more often, and get their hands in their mouth, they’re starting to link dust contamination with childhood cancers,” Bumstead said to the team onstage. “The fact that everything I’ve shown you on that map is kind of almost linear from the Santa Susana site or close to it. I’m concerned that if there are contaminants – I understand that everything is hypothetical – you don’t know what’s dangerous out there, apparently, right now but if there was to be something dangerous what are you doing? What steps are being taken? Because I’ve heard that cleanup might not start until 2017 but we’re panicking, you know? We’re frightened.”
DTSC’s SSFL project team manager Mark Malinowski moved to the microphone to utter words meant to soothe Bumstead, words implausible to anyone cognizant that contamination in the air, water and soil doesn’t respect site boundaries, especially when the Santa Ana winds blow or El Niño delivers torrential rains as it is anticipated to do.
“Based on the sampling we have, what we try to do when we do sampling; we sample from where the likely source of contamination is and start sampling out,” Malinowski said to Bumstead and the assembled. “When we basically start doing that sampling, and we’re going outward we usually have boundaries that really define, say, we know where that is and 99.99% of everything is within the site boundaries. We do have some clean up that has to be done under the Administrative Order on Consent in a couple of the drainages to the north but basically the investigations have not found any significant impact that would be a threat to the public health environment off the Santa Susana Field Lab.”
In other words, those ten exceedingly rare child cancers, and all the others that are happening, have happened and will curse untold numbers of San Fernando Valley infants in the future, have nothing to do with Rocketdyne. When the mothers asked the obvious question – what keeps the contamination on the property – they also got no honest answer from DTSC, which should have told them the contamination is not contained and will continue to migrate until it’s cleaned up.
To make sure that Bumstead and the other five moms got the point, one of the most infamous of health impact deniers and self-professed Meltdown Denier Chris Rowe took the floor. Sensing, perhaps, that the meeting was turning out poorly for the pro-polluter crowd, Rowe did something even more craven than usual in her years disrupting meetings with revisionist natter – she flogged her own cancer addressing Bumstead directly.
“There is nothing I have to say to these families with children with cancer, or whatever, there is nothing that tugs at my heart more than that,” she said straight faced. “I had a child that I took to UCLA on a weekly basis for childhood illnesses and so I want you to know. And I have had cancer myself, so we don’t always know the sources of our cancers,” which was Rowe’s way of saying that, whatever the cause of these rare child cancers, it isn’t SSFL and Boeing’s fault. “You need to be aware that there are other things in our lives that cause cancers and our illnesses and I do have a lot of chronic disease.”
That will be ATSDR’s finding as well, if it continues its course at SSFL. The agency has promised to work closely with Weitzberg and the Boeing CAG, who will be sure to guide it to a conclusion that will be inconclusive at best. SSFL never hurt anyone, they will say, so no need to bother cleaning it up.
The chronic disease that lies at the heart of the battle to clean up Rocketdyne is a willingness to go to any length, break any societal restraint, to baldly lie about it in order to protect property values and Boeing’s bottom line. It is the perfect toxic storm, a polluter fighting cleanup with the ready aid of state and federal agencies and a cadre of cunning collaborators.
But don’t count the cleanup activists out. They’ve gone 26 years, and will go another 26, they say, if that’s what it takes to make sure their communities no longer have to worry about SSFL’s toxic fallout.