Chemical & Nuclear Clean Up A-Z of the Santa Susana Research Facility

144 - 65 mya
The Chatsworth Formation is created.
1200 - 1800 AD
Chumash cave dwellers paint pictographs in the caves of the Burro Flats.
North American Aviation, Rocketdyne's parent company, selects a site in the Simi Hills known as the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. For decades DOE & the AEC, operate nuclear facilities across the US & a culture of secrecy & indifference to environmental laws leaves massive contamination of radioactive & chemically toxic materials at & leaking from sites including the SSFL
November 12: Edward R. Murrow televises the SRE's start on his program, See It Now, as it powered Moorpark.
March: AE-6 Reactor Accident releasing radioactive contamination to surrounding communities.
July: SRE Sodium Reactor Experiment suffers a partial meltdown; its estimated release is 240 times that of 3 Mile Island. To the public, it is disclosed as a "parted fuel element" being observed. Now we know more, and must take much greater action. Official records state that 13 of 43 fuel elements suffered damage. Additional fuel-element handling accidents occurred during the recovery process that resulted in radiological releases to the environment and surrounding communities.
1963 -1965
The SNAP8 Experimental Reactor reportedly suffers 80% fuel element damage.
The 200,000th test is recorded at Santa Susana, climaxing 13 years of testing components & rocket engines.
Rocketdyne's hard work climaxes with the Apollo 11 Mission, landing the 1st Americans on the moon.
The SNAP8 Developmental Reactor is discontinued due to problems with premature fuel element ruptures.
September: The worst brush fire in its 20 year history sweeps through Rocketdyne's then 2,635 acres at SSFL.
Rocketdyne receives a $500 million contract to build the Space Shuttle Main Engine. In the same year, Rocketdyne receives a contract for the Army's Lance Missile, which uses squibb igniters.

The veil of secrecy is involuntarily lifted by a series of troubling revelations about the environmental issues at DOE nuclear sites. EPA involvement with SSFL begins at the request of elected officials.

EPA oversight at SSFL begins at the request of elected officials. The EPA establishes the Rocketdyne SSFL Workgroup for the sharing of information among the community & regulatory agencies.
The EPA delegates authority for RCRA implementation to California & regulatory oversight of the clean-up of chemical contamination at SSFL.
April 11: US v. Rockwell International: following the explosion that killed two scientists, a task force (that includes the FBI, Pentagon, Air Force, Navy, & state & local officials) conducts a 21 month probe of the lab. Ultimately, the lab pleads guilty to 3 felony counts of illegal storage & disposal of hazardous waste. Result: $6.5 million fine, the largest ever at the time.
The EPA concludes that DOE's ETEC does NOT score for Superfund listing based on limited documented radiological information on releases.
1999 - 2002
The EPA conducts a building closure survey verification sampling for 10 ETEC buildings, & confirms the conclusions of DOE's closure verification sampling; that it had met the regulatory requirements.
The EPA provides comments to DOE on the closure of ETEC & concludes that the proposed closure was not consistent with CERCLA. Over 200 buildings are removed without EPA oversight.
The EPA resigns as the Chair of the SSFL Workgroup based on the determination that EPA is not the lead regulatory agency.
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issues $471,000 in water quality fines. Stormwater Expert Panel proposes ENTS Engineered Natural Treatment Systems to be installed over contaminated run-off "problem" areas in the Northern Drainage and Happy Valley Perchlorate.
The Committee to Bridge the Gap, the City of Los Angeles & the NRDC bring a lawsuit against DOE in US District Court, challenging its Environmental Assessment. Judge Conti rules against DOE & orders a full EIS.
SB990 passes & Gov. Schwarzenegger signs it into law. The EPA considers the full SSFL site & chemicals as well as radioactivity. The EPA recommends NPL listing & that SSFL is eligible for Superfund classification.
August: Norm Riley (Cal EPA's DTSC) issues and signs a Consent Order, also signed by David King (NASA), Tom Gallacher (Boeing), and Cynthia Anderson (DOE).
Norm Riley issues an ISEO on Northern Drainage at Sage Ranch prompted by and
DTSC issues NFA (No Further Action) on Dayton Canyon despite astromical findings of perchlorate in the creedbed at 62,000,000ppb.
1,100 igniters are found buried in Sage Ranch in the creek bed, under an oak tree. This discovery occurs during the removal action in progress from ISEO issued at Sage Ranch/Northern Drainage in 2007.
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issues a Source Removal Order due to concerns over cost and the maintenance of proposed ENTS treatment-train systems that leave contamination in place.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sends a letter of nonconcurrance with the EPA for Superfund NPL listing, keeping clean-up within the state. The EPA agrees to NOT seek SSFL Superfund placement and the CERCLA clean-up process begins.
The SSFL Workgroup responsibility is transferred from EPA to DTSC.


Implementation of HR2764,%207-2-08.pdf


January: Relinquishing of Superfund Status despite then fact the site scored to be eligible based on combining the area impacts and combining rad and chemical, in favor of SB990 and state oversight. The strict interpretation of sb990 that prompted sticking points between the parties included no area averaging (contrary to how EPA normally determines nature and extent of contamination), and mandated cleanup to agricultural PRG which in many cases were levels below what science could detect. But no one would budge. Boeing sued as a result.


Letter from NRDC and Committee to bridge the gap,%207-7-08.pdf

March: Letter from five elected officials to protect the workgroup at all costs. This is the letter that starts the effort to remove Norm at Dan's request or urging.:
August: SSFL Workgroup: Daniel Hirsch states that heads will roll within ten days.

Letter in response to Daniel Hirsch accusations that water board executive officer acted inappropriately


Dtsc and cal EPA respond by removing norm Riley from the project.

Assembly select committee is formed to look into these issues...but they never meet.

June: Agreement in Principle dropping Boeing:,_6-24-2010.pdf

December: Administrative Order on Consent is signed by DOE and NASA and Dtsc, but Boeing is dropped from the order after two years of negotiating. Boeing sues in federal district Court to challenge sb990 on the basis of constitutionality
Committee to bridge the gap along with electeds Pavley and Brownley, try to codify the AOC into law without knowledge or disclosure to the public, or the regulating agencies
Brownley et al write letter as assembly select committee members even through the committee never met in the two years since it's creation.
Committee to bridge the gap accuses governor of "Killing the cleanup" and we who opposed this language are accused of being Boeing lobbyists by Senator Pavleys staff at the following workgroup meeting
April: SB990 is set aside in Judge John F. Walters decision on a motion for summary Judgement splitting the path forward between the parties and the various portions of the site based on ownership.
June: New Director of DTSC is confirmed by Governor Jerry Brown- Debbie Raphael, who is asked to reconsider the CAG/PPG decision and to look at the process and impact of these political decisions, by Ms. Raphael agrees to look into the issues, decides to schedule her own visit to the site, and to meet with the concerned public and weigh the issues, looking for some new solutions that will make the process work, and implementation of the cleanup possible.
The remaining plutonium will finally decay from the 1959 meltdown.
This guide was created by the Studio for Southern California History  for the Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education & Cleanup Rocketdyne copyright 2009
1957195019491948200719472005198620031981194119262000194019231971193819271935193119651999196319951930190819091917192819001901190319041905190619211907192919592008198819901992200920101888189518892011 A short History of the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration slideshow