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Decades later, Simi Valley nuclear meltdown still impacts lives

March 16, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
In 1959, a 2,900-acre Southern California plant suffered a massive partial nuclear meltdown. It remains the worst in U.S. history for the radiation that was released.

The accident at Santa Susana Field Laboratory, or Rocketdyne, left large rates of toxic contamination, radiation and chemicals in Simi Valley and Los Angeles County neighborhoods.

Dawn Kowalski, Marie Mason and Holly Huff have lived in Simi Valley for much of that time. All three of them have cancers or other illnesses.

The people who live near Rocketdyne have been fighting for more than two decades to get answers and solutions. They say that no matter what happens, they will continue the fight to support a so-called trailer bill in Sacramento that would have made the cleanup agreement part of state law.

"We've worked so very hard to get it cleaned up," Kowalski said. "It just boggles my mind.

The language in the bill that would have made that possible was removed this week.

Despite calls to Gov. Jerry Brown's office, there has been no explanation.

"Why would you want to pull something that's just going to strengthen the law and give them very little wiggle room?" Mason said. "We need very little wiggle room so that we can finally clean up and we can all get on with our lives.

Calls to the office Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), one of the assembly authors of the bill, were also inconclusive.

The women who live near the Rocketdyne facility all sympathize greatly with the Japanese who are facing radiation from nuclear plants.

For them and the others who lived near the Rocketdyne meltdown, it's still a big part of their lives.