Boost from Kardashians buoys residents as they continue to lobby for cleanup at 60th anniversary of Santa Susana Field Lab’s toxic disaster

on Jul15
by | Comments Off on Boost from Kardashians buoys residents as they continue to lobby for cleanup at 60th anniversary of Santa Susana Field Lab’s toxic disaster |

Lila Quinn dipped a brush into green paint and carefully drew three cacti on a round, grey rock.

“I love the Earth, and I’m not happy about pollution,” 9-year-old Lila said Saturday at Rancho Tapo Community Park in Simi Valley, joining other children, neighbors and activists in a throng that included celebrities Kim Kardashian-West and her sister Kourtney Kardashian.

Their shared mission: Commemorate the 60th anniversary of the nuclear accident at the former Santa Susana Field Laboratory — and stoke the ongoing call out for action to clean up the contaminated site.

“If we can lend our voice to help, we are happy to do so,” Kardashian said Saturday.

Quinn’s painted rock will become part of a memorial dedicated to workers and neighbors who are believed to have been harmed by chemicals and radiation released from the former high-tech complex. Activists and some experts blame long-term illnesses and rare cases of cancer on the contamination.

The former research and development  center — once a cutting-edge collection of production plants, test sites and chemical labs — engaged in building and testing rocket engines and developing experimental liquid metals, among other toxic processes. An experimental nuclear reactor’s partial meltdown in 1959 left the area beset with radioactive and chemical pollution, experts say.

After decades of activism, the government in 2010 agreed to clean up the site, but efforts have fallen short of promised goals and deadlines.

Renewed hope

Kardashian-West, who lives in nearby Hidden Hills, learned about the issue after the Woolsey fire broke out at the site last year. Since then, she has demanded via Twitter that President Donald Trump, Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry help push for the site’s remediation.

The Kardashians’ recent involvement has sparked enthusiasm among residents who have long demanded action.

“It means a lot to us,” Kardashian said Saturday as she penned a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Saturday.

West Hills resident Bonnie Klea, who has been lobbying for the cleanup for more than 20 years, said the reality-TV icons’ notoriety, fueled by their massive social-media following, “could get it done where we couldn’t.”

Melissa Bumstead, a West Hills resident, said her team is planning to join the Kardashians on their trip to Washington D.C. to talk to Trump and Energy Secretary Rick Perry about their community.

“I’m incredibly grateful,” Bumstead said.

RELATED STORY: Santa Susana Field Lab cleanup agreement penned years ago is ‘not achievable,’ report says

The lab’s toxic legacy

Hidden in the hills above San Fernando and Simi Valleys, the 2,850-acre site opened in the 1940s and launched many of the nation’s most important advances in rocket and space travel.

The area also housed 10 experimental reactors. One of them endured a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959, leaving the area polluted with radioactive and chemical contamination.

But it was not until 2010 the federal Department of Energy and NASA signed an agreement, promising to remove all contamination from the site by 2017.

The state’s Department of Toxic Substance Control, or DTSC, asked Boeing, which owns a portion of the area, to commit to its own remediation.

More than two years after the 2017 deadline, the cleanup has not even started.

RELATED STORY: Kim Kardashian West demands Trump, Newsom, lead cleanup of Santa Susana Field Lab

A recently released report from the NASA Inspector General’s Office said the cleanup the agency agreed to conduct — under the terms of a now nine-year-old agreement — is simply not achievable.

On Friday, July 12, Sen. Feinstein and eight U.S. Congress members from California sent a letter to Perry, NASA Administrator Tim Bridenstine and CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld — urging compliance with agreements to fully clean up the site.

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