Community Applauds Federal Agency’s Decision to Reject Petition Calling for Repudiation of Past Health Studies and Weakened Cleanup
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has announced that it will back away from plans to get involved at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL).
The announcement comes after months of public outcry over ATSDR’s prior decision to accept a petition that asked the agency to repudiate studies that showed potential health risks from SSFL and to weigh in against the site’s cleanup agreements. The petition was submitted by a former manager at SSFL and current consultant to the Department of Energy, which is one of the polluters at SSFL.
“Our ATSDR environmental health scientists and leadership have evaluated information shared during recent community meetings and new data available since our previous involvement at Santa Susana,” said ATSDR Director Dr. Patrick Breysse in the agency’s press release.
“Following this evaluation, we have concluded that a thoughtful process has been used to evaluate threats to public health and to develop plans to address those health threats. Therefore, ATSDR will not conduct new public health investigations of the Santa Susan Field Laboratory Site as a result of the recent petitions.”
In September, former SSFL researchers, public health, community, and workers’ advocates appealed to ATSDR to cease it’s involvement with SSFL, noting that refuting prior health studies conflicted with the agency’s mission and that it had no jurisdiction or expertise on cleanups. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors and LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl also asked ATSDR to not intervene in SSFL, and a petition signed by over 500 community members implored the agency to stay out.
“This was the right decision,” said Bonnie Klea, a former SSFL worker who now advocates for a full cleanup. “We already have independent studies showing potential health risks from SSFL and we have binding cleanup agreements. Interference from ATSDR, especially at the request of someone who works for one of the polluters, would be wrong and potentially very harmful to the community.”
SSFL is heavily contaminated with nuclear and chemical contamination resulting from decades of nuclear activities and rocket engine testing. In 2010, agreements were signed between the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Department of Energy and NASA to cleanup all detectable contamination at their respective portions of the property. Also in 2010, DTSC promised that it would require the Boeing Company to clean up its part of the property to the same standards.