Los Angeles

LA County Demands Full Cleanup of Toxic Site Above Valleys

Los Angeles County supervisors say contamination threatens families and children

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday demanded a full cleanup of the radioactive and chemical contamination at the Santa Susana Field Lab, which sits above neighborhoods and a children's camp between the west San Fernando and Simi valleys.

The NBC4 I-Team, in its ongoing investigation "LA's Nuclear Secret," documented how decades of nuclear accidents and rocket tests left thousands of acres contaminated with toxic materials that many experts say migrate into neighboring communities.

"We will settle for nothing less than a full cleanup of this site," LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said Tuesday.

Kuehl and Supervisor Kathryn Barger co-sponsored a resolution, which passed unanimously, calling on the US Department of Energy (DOE) to fully clean up its portion of the contaminated field lab and return the site to its native state.

The DOE, along with NASA and the Boeing Corporation, are responsible for the cleanup of various parts of Santa Susana.

In 2010, NASA and the Energy Department signed agreements to fully clean up their portion of the field lab. But earlier this year, the DOE issued a report saying it might only clean up a small fraction of the contamination.

At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, residents who live near the field lab said there are unusually high numbers of certain cancers in their neighborhoods. At least one federally funded study has backed up that conclusion.

Bonnie Klea, a West Hills resident and former worker at the field lab says she's battled cancer along with many others in her neighborhood.

"Now we have young families in the community and they all have cancer, and it makes me so sad because I was hoping it would be over and it's not," Klea told the Supervisors.

The effort to clean up the toxic site has dragged on for decades. Dan Hirsch, Director of UC Santa Cruz' Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy and a longtime advocate for a Santa Susana cleanup, says more people will get sick if the site isn't fully cleaned up.

"If SSFL weren't fully cleaned up as promised, radioactive and chemical contaminants would continue to migrate offsite, putting at risk the health of people living nearby," Hirsch told NBC4.

Tuesday's action by the Board of Supervisors is only the latest call to get the field lab cleaned up. Last week, the Los Angeles City Council and the Ventura Board of Supervisors also approved resolutions demanding the US Energy Department do a full cleanup.

Contact Us