For over twenty-five years, the Santa Susana Field Laboratory Inter-Agency Work Group has served to keep the community informed about the contamination at SSFL and assure its thorough cleanup.
In 1989, at the request of Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), the EPA was asked to establish and chair an Inter-Agency Work Group, with representatives of all the responsible agencies. Over the years that has included DOE, EPA, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Ventura County Air District, the Department of Health Services, and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).
Additionally, local elected officials requested that the Work Group also have several representatives of the community. Some of these were technical experts who could provide an independent assessment of the issues, giving the local community some technical expertise that was representing the community’s concerns rather than working for a responsible party.
The community representatives have included representatives from Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, who added perspective on health effects of radiation, Dr. Sheldon Plotkin, a safety engineer with the Southern California Federation of Scientists, Dan Hirsch, Director of the Program on Nuclear and Environmental Policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz and President of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, Jerry Raskin, a local physics professor, Marie Mason, from a local homeowners association and co-founder of the Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, Barbara Johnson, who has lived for decades just down the hill from the site, and Bonnie Klea, a former SSFL worker who has been the mainstay in efforts to get the sick SSFL worker cohorts covered by the Department of Labor compensation program for DOE workers.
The independent experts help translate the complicated information put forward by the agency representatives into language the public can more readily understand, and challenge, when needed, agency assertions that were questionable. Local residents are invaluable in providing information about old landfills in the area where contaminated waste may have improperly gone, or explaining about wind patterns, or otherwise provide useful insights that only locals would know.
In 2012, the SSFL Work Group was discontinued by DTSC), the agency responsible for overseeing the SSFL cleanup. Demand for the Work Group’s remained strong, with over 200 people signing a petition to have it reinstated. While DTSC declined to act upon the petition, cleanup advocates never gave up efforts to bring the Work Group back and in 2013 secured funding from the Community Involvement Fund to help reinstate it. The Work Group is coordinated by Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.