Five Honest Answers

We've answered five of the most common Q&A questions with our most honest answers. We have researched and interviewed scientist, epidemiologists, advocates, elected officials, and health related professionals to try to bring you the most truthful, unbiased, and comprehensive answers.

1. Is the cleanup more dangerous than leaving the waste where it is?

There are many that would want you to think so. The Department of Energy, NASA, Boeing and the CA Department of Toxic Energy have worked hard to keep residents afraid of the cleanup. They've engaged in PR campaigns, made "donations" to community leaders to advocate on their behalf, and held long public meetings full of scare tactics to keep residents from demanding a full cleanup. If the cleanup is done with modern technology and smarter methods, and if it follows the federal, state, and local ordinances, the cleanup will be significantly safer than leaving the contamination on site. It's up to residents to demand the safest and most complete cleanup. 

2. Is the SSFL really causing Cancer?

Yes, it is. We worked with a statistician and our imputed data shows that our community is above the national average for pediatric cancers. The area was noted to have a 10-20% higher invasive breast cancer rate than the rest of California in an independent study by the California Breast Mapping Project, and many of the women with breast cancer in our community are under age fifty, which is uncommon. A 2007 University of Michigan EPI Study definitively proved that residents who lived within two miles of the site had a 60% higher cancer rate. Additionally 1,500 former SSFL workers were later diagnosed with cancer and a UCLA study showed that workers exposed to radiation and chemicals at the site had higher cancer related mortality rates. You can read the reports here.

3. What if a truck-full of radioactive waste crashes on my front lawn during the cleanup?

The Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed the most outdated, dangerous cleanup methods imaginable. They suggested that for every dot of radiation on the site, they'll be required to dispose of an acre of land. That's absurd. There's no requirement for that. (With modern equipment they could scan for radiation, clean the area, and then re-check for radiation. If it's clean they could move on, having only removed the contaminated soil.) The DOE has proposed an outdated cleanup method so they can claim it will take thousands of trucks to move all that soil. But if they use more modern methods...there's not nearly as much soil to move, which is what we all want. It avoids "moonscaping," it's significantly safer and it's 100% clean.

The DOE then proposed that these thousands of trucks would have to drive nearly 60 miles, on densely populated streets, to the nearest train station. There are at least three service roads that can be used that have few, if any, homes nearby. These service roads are near a usable train track. The only reason the DOE has proposed using residential streets was to scare residents into rejecting the cleanup all together. What's worse, is that the CA Department of Toxic Substances has held many public meetings that reinforced the dangers of the DOE's proposals, instead of demanding safer options. Residents deserve the safest and smartest cleanup, and we won't settle for less.

4. if you stir up the dust won't we all get sick?

What dust? You mean all the dust Boeing and the Department of Energy (DOE) keep talking about if they use the clumsiest operators and the most outdated cleanup methods? The Department of Toxic Substances keep talking as if only the laziest and sloppiest workers will be hired. If NASA, the DOE and Boeing are the world-class companies they claim to be, it seems they should be able to hire competent and qualified workers. Federal, state and local ordinances will direct the cleanup with the intent to keep dust minimal. If covered conveyor belts were used, that could load contaminated dirt directly into trucks or trains, then there would be virtually no dust. Trucks that leave the site have requirements to wash their tires and undercarriage before leaving the site. All these requirements exist to protect residents from harm. Cleanups are meant to make the situation better, not worse.

Note: Right now homes are being/have been built near the SSFL. The construction is not being regulated as strictly as the cleanup would be and so far there have not been reports of increased cancers or diseases such as Valley Fever.

5. What kind of contamination is at the ssfl?

Dr. Robert Dodge, President of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, presents on the health impacts of contaminants that have been found at the SSFL.

A 2012 EPA report found that the SSFL is contaminated with dangerous radionuclides such as cesium-137, strontium-90, plutonium-239 and tritium. It can take 6,000 years before these become "safe"  if they are allowed to naturally insinuate. Cesium-137 is water soluble and can absorbed into the body like calcium is and stored in bones and soft tissue, causing years of health issues.

SSFL is also contaminated with highly toxic chemicals such as perchlorate, dioxins, PCBs, heavy metals, and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen, has seeped into the Chatsworth aquifer. TCE is so dangerous that permissible levels in water are 5 parts per billion; 500,000 gallons of TCE are estimated to be polluting the Chatsworth aquifer.  For this reason residents have an imported water supply and they are discouraged from drinking well water.

The radioactive and chemical waste at the Santa Susana Field Lab can cause harm to human health after a single, short-term exposure.