SSFL fluorine burn box - ACME-LA public comment photo

Unearthed documents indicate a coverup of fluoride groundwater contamination that continues today with highest readings ever in neighboring Jewish camp Brandeis-Bardin and Southern Buffer Zone spreading offsite

Though Rocketdyne officials knew as far back as 1965 that toxic fluoride contamination at its Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) would need its own water treatment plant to clean up, it wouldn’t be until 1981 that company officials figured out how to deal with—lie about it:

“The solution of the LETF [Laser Engineering Test Facility] incident is resulting in the deposition of fluoride containing water on the hillside,” says an August 20, 1981 Rocketdyne memo. “The problem with this approach is that, if at some future time fluoride levels in the discharge are above allowable limits, the board or the public may take the position that these levels are due to our deposition of fluorides upon the soil.”

That “some future time” is now. Nevertheless, Rocketdyne created a “defense” 42 years ago that is still being used by SSFL polluter NASA today.

“As a defense against such possible charges and simply for Rocketdyne to perform an adequate monitoring of its potential environmental impacts it is necessary to take soil samples and analyze them for fluoride content.”

That is precisely the scheme that NASA still employs today only now the dots have been connected. What they show is a full knowledge of the dangers of fluoride and just how to make the problem magically go away. Spray it then test for it. Then hide it until 2022 when fluoride is declared “natural” by NASA and isn’t mapped spreading into Brandeis-Bardin where thousands of Jews recreate every year.

Hitler favorite and later SSFL rocketeer honcho Werner von Braun would marvel at the evil brilliance of such a plan. Indeed, it has been so effective that it took this reporter 25 years to find it after beginning to report on Rocketdyne in 1998. Written documentation to conspire to hide massive lab contamination spreading offsite and once lost to the dusty digital pages of history are lost no more. has uncovered documents that show that Rocketdyne, which owned SSFL until Boeing bought it in 1996, actively hid fluoride contamination at the 2,850-acre lab in the hills between the Simi and San Fernando valleys from August 1981 on even as it knew of the problem at least as early as 1965.

[To be clear, Sacramento-based Aerojet Rocketdyne has nothing to do with SSFL. That company’s activities have been reported on by in our Aerojet Chino Hills Investigation.]

A 2023 NASA groundwater report passes fluoride contamination off as “natural” even as the highest reading of the contaminant found yet offsite was detected on the Brandeis-Bardin Jewish camp property adjacent SSFL on its northern border in 2022 by NASA itself.

Fluoride extent @@FL 2022 - red diamonds at top left are Brandeis-Bardin hits

The legend on the report’s fluoride contamination map figured out the way to explain why no groundwater plume mapping of the fluoride offsite in Brandeis-Bardin was warranted; lie about it in 2023 like fluoride was lied about in 1981:

“Fluoride occurs naturally in SSFL groundwater. Groundwater plumes are not depicted around elevated fluoride concentration in offsite and/or undeveloped areas because they are likely naturally occurring and unrelated to any potential SSFL contaminant sources.”

Unearthed documents show that since 1981 until 2023, lab officials conspired to coverup extensive fluoride contamination from the tons of the fluoride chemical and its variants. By testing for fluoride contamination at SSFL, so the twisted logic goes in this August 27, 1981 Rocketdyne memo obtained by, the company was absolving itself for spraying for two million gallons of goo on chapparal-covered hillsides.

“This program is viewed by the Environmental Office as a defense against charges that Rocketdyne has deposited fluorides upon the soil and simply for Rocketdyne to perform an adequate monitoring of its potential environmental impacts since future laser programs contemplate using fluorine gas.”

Fluoride was used by the ton at SSFL and was involved in multiple environmental accidents. Now it is now showing up in neighboring Brandeis-Bardin well water – for the first time ever – at 2.55 times California’s Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for the toxin in drinking water.

And yet, NASA in 2023 says that it isn’t mapping the Jewish camp’s toxic fluoride groundwater plume because it’s natural and couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the astronomically contaminated lab next door. The space agency may be confident that the average citizen won’t care, let alone understand, all these findings of fluoride and other dangerous toxins at Brandeis-Bardin buried in an obscure 940-page government report.

This active conspiracy to deceive the public has lasted 42 years. Thousands of pages of documents have revealed shocking tales of environmental crimes that are all the more alarming considering that NASA will leave most of its deadly goo behind, fouling the water and land for hundreds of years to come. That land is now surrounded by over 700,000 residents within ten miles.

Archival and recent government reports show extremely high levels of fluoride, vinyl chloride, cis-1,2-DCE and other exotic and deadly chemicals are being found in ever increasing numbers in and around SSFL, all of which is envisioned to become park land. Those chemical contaminants are in addition to the SSFL-related radiation documented to be found offsite on Brandeis-Bardin.

Spray It (Don’t Say It)

Ronald Reagan was President when the problems began May 14, 1981 with the Laser Engineering Test Facility (LETF) fluorine scrubber sump. Four hundred pounds of the solid fluorine diluted into 15,000 gallons of water and had created a toxic soup that had overwhelmed the system and had to be sprayed over nearby hillsides just to get rid of it.

Or at least that was what was told the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). Surficial discharges are supposed to monitored by the RWQCB.

Actually, those gooey 15,000 gooey gallons were two million gallons according to the August 27, 1981 memo that wasn’t shared with RWQCB. That’s a lot of spraying and may indicate why fluoride is being found in a Brandeis-Bardin well at such high levels even as the LETF source was just over a mile away. first reported on SSFL fluoride being sprayed on hillsides in 2017’s Brandeis-Bardin’s Toxic Denial before we became aware of these 1981 memos outlining the lab’s conspiracy to hide spewing a known toxin into the environment. But the company knew. Sixteen years before the 1981 ‘hide the fluoride’ scheme was hatched, Rocketdyne produced an August 18, 1965 document called The Fluoride Water Pollution Question.

“Fluorine is a cryogenic oxidizer, which is an important propellant for high energy Systems,” the paper says obliterating NASA’s false 2023 ‘fluoride is natural’ hogwash back in 1965. “The use of a fixed bed to remove anions (fluoride ion is an anion) is a common industrial practice. Beds comprising ion exchange resins could be installed for passage of the water over them to remove fluoride, However, this requires a great deal of facility modifications, capital equipment, and a staff to operate; in other words, a water treatment plant would be necessary.”

Area I Acid Bay Hydrofluoric Nitric Acid

But why bother building an expensive water treatment plant when you could just spray the fluoride/fluorine goo on the hillsides? The amounts of fluoride that were used were substantial.

“SSFL has utilized 31,136 lbs. of fluorine (or fluorine containing oxidizers) at Area I during the period 1 July 1964 to 1 July 1965,” the report says. “SSFL has utilized 47,250 lbs, of fluorine at Area II since cy [calendar year] ’65,” with SSFL Area III using 200 pounds of fluorine weekly beginning in August 1965.

The fluoride accidents continued as would be expected considering the amount of the chemical Rocketdyne was using. “An estimated 1,000 gallons of scrubber solution, with a fluoride concentration of 4,600 ppm [parts per million], was released from LETF” Rocketdyne wrote in a report on a March 3, 1983 accident which resulted in the goo being discharged off-site into Bell Creek, one of the headwaters of the Los Angeles River. Another fluoride mishap happened just 18 days later when the LETF fluorine scrubber sump, a concrete hazardous waste storage tank, malfunctioned and overflowed.

Fluoride wasn’t the only contaminant Rocketdyne sent sluicing down “The Hill” as it was known for decades, according to the 1965 report. Cancer causing hexavalent chromium was allowed in SSFL surface runoff water to both the Simi and San Fernando valleys at a level 250 times the California Public Health Goal for the occupational carcinogen set by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in 2011. The amount of hexavalent chromium discharged into the neighboring valleys has not yet been discovered by

Brandeis-Bardin’s Radiation Rockets to New Highs

Not all the new bad news for Brandeis-Bardin is fluoride-related. Our 2017 investigation showed that a trio of Brandeis-Bardin wells were impacted by man-made radiation, reporting that “RD-59A, RD-59B and RD-59C [have] yielded some shocking results with Area IV’s nuclear contamination fingerprints.”

Area IV is run by the Department of Energy (DOE). It is where the worst partial nuclear meltdown in the United States happened in 1959 at the Sodium Reactor Experiment, or SRE, just yards from what was then the Brandeis-Bardin and Rocketdyne border. The SRE released hundreds of times more radiation from its unfortified reactor building than the partial meltdown of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979.

Cadmium-113m, used in nuclear reactor control rods, was found in RD-59A according to a 2016 DOE report. Tin-126, a fission product and “possibly (SSFL) site process related,” was found in well RD-59B. Now a 2022 DOE groundwater report for nuclear Area IV of SSFL, which looms high above the Jewish camp below, shows that “there were several new maximum detections in these wells.”

“Arsenic, barium, potassium-40, radium-226, and uranium-238 in well RD-59A,” all hit new highs says the report. “Cesium-137a, gross beta, and radium-226 in well RD-59B. Radium-226 and radium-228 in well RD-59C.”

Brandeis-Bardin Well RD-59B

Does DOE have a plan to clean up their radioactive mess in Brandeis-Bardin? No, but like NASA, it plans to continue to monitor the wells as if that does anything. Indeed, the owners of the camp, American Jewish University, seem to continue have a serious case of toxic denial.

A 214-page July 28, 2022 environmental report on Brandeis-Bardin conducted by GSI Environmental for the university gave Brandeis-Bardin a clean bill of health without referring to the shocking findings of NASA, DOE and

“Analytical results from this sampling have not indicated significant, if any, migration of COCs [chemicals of concern] or other impacts to the Site from the SSFL operations,” GSI Environmental states clearly having missed or ignored our mountain of contamination evidence. “Results from the 2022 sampling event are consistent with analytical testing of media that has occurred at the Brandeis-Bardin campus since 1991.”

Test no evil. See no evil.

Southern Buffer Zone Gets Even More Toxic

Radioactive and chemical contamination escaping the Santa Susana Field Laboratory isn’t something confined to the northern border with Brandeis-Bardin or to the west with Runkle Canyon. The 1,143-acre Southern Buffer Zone (SBZ) has been on the receiving end of SSFL’s goo since the lab opened in the late 1940s.

The dangers of recreating in this contamination became all the more concerning in 2016 which covered in Critics question safety of Boeing’s Santa Susana Field Lab hikes. Those hikes were heavily protested but may soon start again now that the muddy Simi Hills are drying out and are alive with wildflowers.

2016 protest of Southern Buffer Zone hikes held by Boeing

What unsuspecting hikers may encounter is even more contamination with cancer causing vinyl chloride being found at an all-time high at an impacted trailside spring first exposed in 2016 as being impacted by the compound.

Vinyl chloride, a colorless substance used heavily as a precursor in making PVC, made the news in February when five railroad tank cars carrying nearly 900,000 pounds of it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, and was set on fire for days to avoid a catastrophic explosion. Residents fear that vinyl chloride has contaminated the town despite assurances it hasn’t.

The trailside vinyl chloride reported on in 2016 registered a worrying 58 percent higher than the MCL for the chemical in drinking water and its sources, like Bell Canyon creek where the SBZ drains through.

Now a spring in the same sampling area, SP-890G, clocks in with an astounding reading of vinyl chloride at 22 times its MCL, an increase of 3,793 percent in seven years. The kidney-targeting toxin cis-1,2-DCE was also found in SP-890G at 162 times its MCL.

Different parts of SSFL have been greenwashed in different ways to groom an unsuspecting public into believing the area is actually safe for hiking and picnicking without worry of getting a gruesome cancer.

No matter the natter, the numbers don’t lie. The levels of death-dealing contamination at the curse on The Hill are going up even as the public’s power to do anything about it has been just about extinguished. With numbers like these, creating a park out of SSFL or developing Brandeis-Bardin for luxury manses would be the height of folly.

25 Years of Award-Winning SSFL/Rocketdyne Reporting


  1. Absolutely mind-boggling that Gavin Newsom has allowed the state enviromental watchdog agencies to turn their backs on millions of people. Just another prime example of the current administration’s failure to hold it’s own agencies responsible to do their jobs of protecting it’s citizens, while they pat themselves on the back for being good “climate warriors” by forcing everyone into electric cars..

  2. Once again Michael, thank you for your excellent reporting. I apprerciate your investigations.

  3. Anne Marie Mishegas

    There it is in black and white and they are STILL going to get away with it. This is conspiracy and you’ve proved it well enough that the district attorney should aggressively look into to it and fine NASA massively and make them clean that crap up.

    But off course I jest. None of that will happen. NASA will blow a trillion on a useless ‘let’s make a space base on the moon so we can leap frog to Mars’ idea because we’re too stupid to remember that robots work much much better. We need that money to burn, not clean up.

    Hitler would indeed be pleased with NASA. I am heartbroken. Thank you, at least, for 25 years of superb reporting.

  4. Great investigation and analysis, as always MLC. Your unvarnished editorial comments on the facts you have uncovered are what give the numbers and the duplicity meaning both scientifically and politically.

  5. Hughes Ratheon has 23 wells with Hex Chromiun. Do you think this was a present From SSFL?

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