Area III of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) encompasses a number of facilities, most of which are astronomically polluted. The drainage from Area III makes its way down Bell Canyon and into the Los Angeles River to the east. These facilities include the ECL Pond which was used for treatment and storage and is contaminated with methylene chloride, sodium hydroxide, formaldehyde, nitric acid, sodium azide, and dimethyl sulfoxide. Compound A, a wastewater catchment, is polluted with hydrofluoric acid. The Systems Test Laboratory (STL) and its catchment cooling water “ponds” are fouled by MMH, hydrazine, TCA, TCE, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Area III sits at the top of the headwaters of the Los Angeles River.

In the 2005 Topanga Fire, Area III burned along with the rest of Rocketdyne including the Components Test Laboratory IV, later renamed Space Technology Laboratory IV or CTL (STL-IV). “Small engine testing with an MMH-NTO propellant was conducted in Area III at the Systems Test Laboratory IV (STL-IV),” according to a November 30, 2007 SSFL Preliminary Site Assessment. “The propellant ingredients were developed at the Engineering Chemistry Laboratory (ECL). Organic solvents were used to flush the small jet engine thrust chambers after each test. The solvent wastes were stored in similar surface impounds used at Areas I and II.”

The programs supported at the CTL-IV (STL-IV) included Gemini, Peacekeeper, Lunar Excursion Module, Coaxial Lance, Mariner Mars/Viking, XLR-132, and the TRANS Stage Engine. At its height, the complex performed hundreds of tests annually including those with the Condor, NOMAD, MOL, Agena Auxiliary, as well as AR Engines for F-86 and F-100 aircraft.

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20 years of ongoing SSFL/Rocketdyne investigative reporting
June 1998June 2018