Woolsey Fire: Flames near Rocketdyne bring out concerns on toxic materials

Amy Powell Image
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Woolsey Fire near Rocketdyne leads to toxic-material worries
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The Woolsey Fire broke out near the former Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Lab, leading to concerns about toxic materials being released into the air.

CHATSWORTH, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The devastating Woolsey Fire broke out in the area of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, with flames burning a portion of the former Rocketdyne facility.

Decades ago the lab was used for testing of nuclear reactors and rocket engines. In 1959 there was a partial nuclear meltdown at the site.

Now activists fear the fire has released toxic substances into the air.

Khloe Kardashian is among those calling for support of a full cleanup of the site. She tweeted: "Our family lives ONLY 20 miles from a nuclear disaster site, Santa Susana Field Lab, and we didn't even know it - the #WoolseyFire started there, and smoke could be carrying radioactive chemicals. We need @GavinNewsom to do something - sign the petition."

West Hills activist Melissa Bumstead started the petition to clean up the lab property.

"It is not properly contained," Bumstead said. "Some of the radiation is just buried underground. That leaches out. So trees, grass, all of that can have the radiation inside. When a fire comes, that's now ash and dust and smoke and it can go very far very quickly."

Bumstead says her 8-year-old daughter battled a rare form of leukemia twice and many other children and adults in communities surrounding the site have dealt with cancer and other health issues.

The property is owned by the federal Department of Energy and Boeing Co. and overseen by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The DTSC says over the weekend it took radiation measurements at the site and in the surrounding community.

In a statement the agency says: "The results from this initial round of testing showed no radiation levels above background level, and no elevated levels of hazardous compounds other than those normally present after a wildfire.'

State Sen. Henry Stern said it appears the most radioactive areas of the site did not catch fire, but the public should be given complete information.

"The public deserves to know," Stern said. "There are a lot of children, families out there and they want to know. But the initial indications are that none of the pads have burned. So none of the areas where there's the most radioactive equipment did catch fire."

Still, activists say they don't trust government and they want independent experts to conduct tests at the site.

"My friends' homes burned down and now we have to be afraid of radioactive smoke?" Bumstead said. "And we can't get the data we need to know if we're safe or not."