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Study Finds Radioactivity Migrated from Contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory During Woolsey Fire via Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles

Congressional and Local Elected Officials Release Letters to CalEPA Complaining that the SSFL Soil Cleanup, Which Was to Have Been Completed by 2017, Hasn’t Even Begun

Contact: Denise Duffield, 310-339-9676 or dduffield@psr-la.org
Melissa Bumstead ‪(818) 835-5258‬ or melissabumstead@sbcglobal.net
Dr. Marco Kaltofen mpkaltofen@gmail.com

A peer-reviewed study, just published by the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, found that radioactive contamination from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) migrated offsite during the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which began at SSFL. The study calls into question widely distrusted claims by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and its toxics department that no contamination was released.

SSFL is a former nuclear and rocket-engine testing facility located in the hills above the Simi and San Fernando valleys. Decades of accidents, spills, and releases – including a partial nuclear meltdown – resulted in extensive radioactive and chemical contamination that still has not been cleaned up.

The study “Radioactive microparticles related to the Woolsey Fire in Simi Valley, CA” was conducted by Marco Kaltofen of the Dept. of Physics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Maggie and Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education. It examined 360 samples of household dust, surface soils, and ash from 150 homes as well as other locations collected in December 2018 through February 2019 by community volunteers who received training in sample and safety protocols. Photos and video of the sample collection can be downloaded here. The study found radioactive particles associated with the fire at SSFL as high as nineteen times background (normal) as much as nine miles away.

[…]

“Most of the fire-impacted samples found near the SSFL site’s perimeter were on lands accessible to the public. There were, however, scattered localized areas of increased radioactivity due to the presence of radioactive microparticles in ash and recently-settled dusts collected just after the Woolsey fire. These radioactive outliers were found in Thousand Oaks, CA, and Simi Valley, CA, about 15 and 5 km distant from SSFL, respectively. The Thousand Oaks samples had alpha count rates up to 19 times background, and X-ray spectroscopy (SEM) identified alpha-emitting thorium as the source of this excess radioactivity. Excessive alpha radiation in small particles is of particular interest because of the relatively high risk of inhalation-related long-term biological damage from internal alpha emitters compared to external radiation.”

The findings contradict conclusions by CalEPA’s Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which, a mere 9 hours after the fire began on November 8, 2018, declared that the fire didn’t result in releases of hazardous materials. CalEPA/DTSC issued an interim study in December 2018, affirmed in a final version in December 2020, which asserted that “data from sampling and measurements did not detect the release of chemical or radiological contaminants from SSFL.” The CalEPA/DTSC claims were widely criticized (see, e.g., Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).

[…]

MSNBC to Air Award-Winning Documentary About the Santa Susana Field Lab

MSNBC has announced the acquisition of the documentary, “In the Dark of the Valley,” which follows the story of Melissa Bumstead and other local mothers whose children have been diagnosed with rare cancers and are fighting for SSFL to be fully cleaned up. The film has won numerous awards on the festival circuit, including Best Documentary at the Phoenix and Catalina Film Festivals. The film will air nationwide on November 14, 2021 at 10pm EST.

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