Nov 13, 2018 – The Woolsey Fire has burned at least 91,000 acres and destroyed around 370 structures, according to the latest Cal Fire update. And now the ragong blaze has torn through a former nuclear site, sparking health fears. The Santa Susana Field Laboratory is located in the California hills between Chatsworth and Simi Vally.
The nuclear research facility survived a partial meltdown in 1959, which was one of the worst nuclear accidents in the USA’s history.
Radioactive emissions were deliberately released into the nearby areas in order to prevent a nuclear explosion from happening.
However, this resulted in high rates of cancer and chronic illnesses among children for many decades afterwards.
Despite parents and physicians fighting to have the contaminated area made safer, clean-up efforts have faced seemingly endless delays over the past decade.
The 2,800-acre site is also known as Rocketdyne.
Members of the community have now expressed concern that flames from the Woolsey fire, which has burning since Thursday, could have burned through toxins that have already contaminated the soil and vegetations around the site.
This potentially could have then released the toxins into the air, along with smoke and ash.
The L.A. chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility group said: “Given the extent of contamination in the site’s soil and vegetation, it is indeed possible and likely that contamination from the site was spread further from the fire in smoke, dust and ash.”
Is there a health risk?
California Department of Toxic Substance Control have issued a statement to reassure people the laboratory does not pose an immediate danger.
The statement read: “There is no evidence that smoke from the area around the SSFL is any more dangerous than other wildfire smoke.”
The statement added LA and Ventura county fire department hazardous materials experts agreed there was no risk.
The department said full testing has not yet been completed due to the area remaining an active evacuation zone.
The statement said: “As soon as access is open, we will evaluate the site, the air monitoring stations and available data.”