Public Risks from the Woolsey Fire and the Santa Susana Field Laboratory: A Letter to DTSC
Prior to the first round of data analysis, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control reported that its scientists “do not believe the fire caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.”
[ Mohsen Nazemi, Deputy Director for the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), speaking at Taft Charter High School in Woodland Hills on November 11, 2018. ]
"A common denominator in every single nuclear accident - a nuclear plant or on a nuclear submarine - is that before the specialists even know what has happened, they rush to the media saying, 'There's no danger to the public.' They do this before they themselves know what has happened because they are terrified that the public might react violently, either by panic or by revolt."
On November 19, representatives Henry Stern and Jesse Gabriel authored a joint letter to Barbara Lee, Director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). In their letter, posted to social media, Senator Stern and Assemblymember Gabriel call for "full transparency" to "ensure the public is fully aware of any public health risks posed by the Woolsey Fire on Santa Susana Field Laboratory."
Henry Stern represents nearly 1 million residents of the 27th Senate District, which includes Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, part of Santa Clarita and the following Los Angeles communities: Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Encino, Porter Ranch, Reseda, Lake Balboa, Tarzana, West Hills, Winnetka, and Woodland Hills.
Jesse Gabriel represents Assembly District 45 comprised of the cities of Calabasas and Hidden Hills, a small portion of unincorporated Ventura County and several neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles: Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Encino, Northridge, Reseda, Tarzana, Warner Center, West Hills, Winnetka, and Woodland Hills.
Senator Stern and Assemblymember Gabriel outline five specific requests regarding transparency from the DTSC, and conclude, "Given the serious and unsettling nature of this situation, we respectfully request that all information and data be disclosed as quickly as possible. Our community—and the broader public—deserve answers."
Letter from Senator Stern and Assemblymember Gabriel to DTSC
November 19, 2018
Director Barbara Lee
California Department of Toxic Substances Control
8800 Cal Center Drive
Sacramento, CA 95826
RE: Public Risks from the Woolsey Fire and the Santa Susana Field Laboratory
Dear Director Lee:
We write with an urgent request that your Department be as forth coming and transparent as possible to allow for independent public oversight in the wake of the Woolsey Fire at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL).
On November 8, 2018, the Woolsey Fire began in the Santa Monica Mountains, burning nearly 100,000 acres from Simi Valley to Malibu. According to public statements from the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), Boeing, the U.S. Department of Energy, and NASA, the Woolsey Fire swept through approximately half the SSFL site. Given the history of the SSFL site, there are serious questions about the potential pubic health risks to neighboring communities and others in the path of the Woolsey Fire.
On November 9, 2018, prior to the first round of data analysis, DTSC reported that its scientists "do not believe the fire caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke." At a community meeting on November 11, 2018, Deputy Director Mohsen Nazemi said preliminary results showed no elevated radiation levels. This was reasserted in DTSC's November 12, 2018 announcement that a "multi-agency team took measurements of radiation and hazardous compounds, both on the site and in the surrounding community" and found "no radiation levels above background levels, and no elevated levels of hazardous compounds other than those normally present after a wildfire" from this initial round of testing.
While we appreciate these statements and the hard work of your multi-agency team, we believe that full transparency is required in these circumstances to facilitate independent investigation. Such transparency will allow other agencies—and the public itself—to independently assess the data underlying DTSC's conclusions and hopefully provide reassurance to the many residents who are just now returning to their homes and beginning the long road to recovery. Without access to the underlying data and analysis, the public will be denied a chance to independently assess the data and will be left to wonder about the potential health risks posed by the burn to the surrounding communities.
To ensure the public is fully aware of any public health risks posed by the Woolsey Fire on SSFL, we request the following be made public:
- A detailed explanation of the role of any state, federal, and local entities in assessing the impact of the Woolsey Fire on SSFL.
- A detailed summary of the monitoring equipment located at or near the SSFL site, including the ownership, control, and capabilities of that equipment.
- Specific information of the types of samples taken, including whether smoke or ash was sampled, and where and when the samples were taken from SSFL or the surrounding communities.
- A map detailing exactly where at the SSFL facility the fire burned.
- All data and analysis from the soil, air, ash, and other samples taken at or near SSFL.
Given the serious and unsettling nature of this situation, we respectfully request that all information and data be disclosed as quickly as possible. Our community—and the broader public—deserve answers.
Senate District 27
Assembly District 45
More information on the Woolsey Fire at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory:
- Woolsey Fire Burns Nuclear Meltdown Site that State Toxics Agency Failed to Clean Up
- Massive Woolsey Fire Began On Contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory, Close to Site of Partial Meltdown
- California Fire Near Nuclear Accident Site