The 2,850-acre Santa Susana Field Laboratory sits high in the hills between the Simi and San Fernando valleys in eastern Ventura County, California. Our ongoing investigation of Rocketdyne, as it is commonly called, began in 1998. Area I is the site of years of rocket tests, laser experimentation and a host of activities that have left the land and groundwater polluted. It has two primary drainages, one of which leads to the Los Angeles River to the east and south of the facility, and another trending north and west of SSFL. The areas drain down into the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of the American Jewish University and eventually to the Arroyo Simi in Simi Valley. The Boy Scout camp has SSFL toxic debris dumped there.

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“At the Earth Pond 2, in the southwestern corner of the Area I Burn Pit, sampling detected dioxins as high as 5,257 parts per trillion,” says a July 2006 Department of Toxic Substances Control fact sheet. “Dioxins at this level are elevated and of concern. Also, elevated levels of trichloroethene (TCE), chromium, petroleum hydrocarbons, other petroleum byproducts, and perchlorate have been found in the Area I Burn Pit.”

A November 2008 DTSC Fact Sheet revealed that radium had been discovered in the pit, above right. “In late September, Boeing began implementing the DTSC-approved workplan to investigate the Area I Burn Pit,” wrote DTSC. “The workplan requires Boeing conduct an initial radiologic scan of soils prior to chemical sampling. During the radiologic screening, radium-containing soils were discovered at discrete locations in this area. This conclusion is based on a preliminary analysis of two soil samples submitted to a laboratory for analysis.”

Previously, it was thought that radioactive waste was only burned further west in Area IV of SSFL, primarily in the Sodium Burn Pit that was extensively excavated for contamination by radioactive and heavy metal waste. The Area I Burn Pit indicates radioactive sediment in the soil of the eastern part of the lab, in the hills above the headwaters of the Los Angeles River.

25 Years of Award-Winning SSFL/Rocketdyne Reporting