Member Viewpoint Archives

Items in this column are expressions of personal opinion by individual members of the Community Advisory Group and do not represent positions of the CAG as a whole.

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  A Member Viewpoint item by John Luker           

May 12, 2014 

An Open Letter

  An Open Letter to William Preston Bowling Concerning Public Hikes at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Mr. Bowling,

The "Proof" you offer to support your conclusion that "It is not safe to be hiking in the Buffer Zones of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory...", not only does not support that conclusion, but rather supports the conclusions reached, by not only myself, but also by other community members and many resource experts. It is also a good example of the hysteria that has seized people about this site. 

I would also ask; Have you actually READ these reports? I ABSOLUTELY agree to all the conclusions and findings in all the reports you cite. If you agree with me that they are the verifiable truth on the subject, that means there is NO daylight between you and me as to the present health threat to the public.

Most of the reports, in their executive summaries state they are not part of any investigation of the Southern Buffer Zone and instead focus on areas far removed from these drainages. Or in their executive summaries say there is no risk to the public.

You tend to "Cherry pick" data that supports your own conclusions and ignore anything that is contrary to your agenda.

Please, everyone reading this open letter, read the document at this link that Mr. Bowling cites as "Proof" of a health threat in the Southern Buffer Zone; 

You wanted to "Prove" that 90% of the runoff flows through the Southern Buffer Zone, I think. That is not in contention, at all. Yep, 90% of the runnoff flows through Bell Canyon, true fact. Please read on though, it is a resolution from the Bell Canyon Home Owners Association opposing a "Background Clean up", and instead, recommendsd a clean up to "Risk-Based" standards. If you agree with the conclusions in this document, we shouldn't be arguing at all.

I would also bring everyone's attention to the graphics Mr. Bowling presents. They are from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's report on SSFL

The report says, in part;

"Based on the distance from the onsite release sources to offsite residential areas, the predominant wind directions, the meteorological conditions at the site, and the rapid dispersion and degradation of oxidants in air, it is unlikely that offsite residents have been, or currently are being exposed to chemicals and radionuclides at concentrations that would result in adverse human health effects."

It has a wonderful graphic on how people can get contamination into their system from the environment. There are four ways to get contamination into your system: you eat it, drink it, smear it on your body or breathe it in. 

  • Nobody ate the dirt.
  • Nobody drank from the streams.
  • Nobody got dirty.
  • Nobody breathed anything bad.

We walked the entire time on a dirt road, 

There was a nice gentle cool breeze, blowing at less than 5 mph; there was no dust being kicked up.

Nobody walked off trail.

Nobody crawled through the drainages.

We were more than a 1/2 mile from the debris areas you cite.

There was never any risk to anybody.

You should come on one of these hikes. I have now taken over 400 people from all walks of life through this pristine example of near-wilderness. To my knowledge, no body has ever gotten sick. My intent has been to show the public that this place is not a "Toxic Wasteland" as you have characterized the buffer zone, but rather, the resource it is. It's working. More and more people are listening and making up their minds. Bell Canyon is a good example. So are recent resolutions by the West Hills Neighborhood Council and the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council. 

As another example of zero risk to the public, The Boeing Co. has just completed an Archaeological Survey of their property, including the Buffer Zone. Confidentiality will not let me divulge any details of the study, but I can speak to it in broad terms. Over 20 people were involved in the survey. It is the most extensive look at the Archaeological resources at SSFL to date. They went everywhere and saw everything. They crawled through chaparral and slid on their butts down steep hillsides. I will likely be speaking to this report at a later date.

Nobody got sick. To my knowledge, no one who works there gets sick from the site. Ask for current health data.

What you and I need to do now is figure out how this cleanup is going to get accomplished. The Community needs to stop arguing. I keep hearing the phrase; "...returned to its natural state...". That is what everyone wants. However, the AOCs do not allow that. Several things need to happen RIGHT NOW if this clean up will even come close to returning the land to its "natural state".

  1. The entire SSFL needs a Resource Management Plan.
  2. Clean backfill needs to be located. At this time I do not believe thsat soil clean enough to meet this standard exists.
  3. The site needs to be returned to its original topography. Its "Natural State".
  4. A 6-year Weed Abatement Program needs to be initiated
  5. A 6 -year Native Re-Vegetation Program needs to be initiated.

A LOT of people agree with me. You should get on the bandwagon.

A good place to start would be at the next CAG meeting. It is May 21st at the Bell Canyon Community Center. Many of the people who are reading this open letter have never been to a CAG meeting. I would hope if you never go to another one, you please come to this one. You will be able to question representatives from all the RPs, the regulators and the CAG members. I myself will be asking everyone from DTSC, the Water Board and Fish and Wildlife if there is any risk here. I am encouraging everyone reading this to come and ask the same questions. Get answers, not from Mr. Bowling or me, but from experts who have been studying this place for the last 20 years. 

Mr. Bowling and everyone else, please come and enter into a reasonable discussion based on facts, not emotion.

John Luker

Communications Co-Chair; SSFL Community Advisory Group (CAG)

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Written statements by William Preston Bowling, to which John Luker refers above, are shown below.

This stems from my feelings against the Boeing Co., Santa Susana Mountains Park Association, and the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society offering an “Earth Day Nature walk through the Southern Buffer Zone at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory” to the public, including children 12 and older…


 …These tours must halt immediately as each individual could have reactions to certain chemicals and radionuclides left behind in the soils or even come across unexploded ordinances.

 Now that you have this information, please discontinue your hiking tours of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and their adjacent lands until a proper cleanup is completed, this includes areas with offsite contamination.

 Thank you in advance for your consideration.

William Preston Bowling
Founder/President ACME
Aerospace Contamination Museum of Education

It is not safe for people to be hiking in the Buffer Zones of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory as they take the majority of the contaminated surface water runoff from the site…
…In addition there have been as recent as last year, discoveries of new debris areas in the Buffer Zone that is scheduled for an Earth Day hike this weekend.
This is also the same area that has had contaminated seeps and springs bubble over into the Los Angeles River watershed.
This is also the area that was your parent company rented out for cattle grazing and was halted due to the Tiger Team Report. This report states that cows wandered into the Nuclear Area IV if the field lab and their excrement was leaving contamination in the Buffer Zone your proposed hike is located.
Can we stop the tourism of the field lab until a proper cleanup is complete?

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 A Member Viewpoint item by Diana Dixon-Davis

March 4, 2014

 Dear SSFL/ CAG,

Though John Luker raises many provocative issues in his Open Letter (February 28, 2014) -- it does not represent the feelings and thoughts of US all.

Any letter from us/the SSFL/CAG (see below**) should have been vetted through input from the entire SSFL/CAG. So far only a few members have had input.Vetting by the entire CAG is the precedent that we have set and has served us well these early months. We have signed on via e-mail (very efficient) and has allowed for disagreements and modifications.

The current letter (as of 10:30 am 4 March 2014) on the website seems to be the original version, with a change in the original banner headline. I still see the claims in the body of the letter that it comes from Our, Us and We.

The body of the letter does not convey at this point that it contains the personal ideas of John Luker, or John's sub-committee.

I do want to ask these four questions:

1.  Who and where did the "gravel for fill" proposal come from?

I do not want to spread false information. But if this claim is true, then the use of gravel fill would be a very bad practice but what/ where is the attribution? 

"NASA will not be returning the land to its original topography. Since no appropriate soils are available, the deepest pits will be filled with gravel. "

2.  Who has decided "the community must raise a $20 million endowment”?

A SSFL Park might need a $20 million endowment but who developed this cost estimate and for what time frame does it cover park operating costs?

3.   Who decided that a SSFL Park may need to be supple-mented by appropriate commercial development, "patterned after hotels like the Ahwahnee in Yosemite Valley..."?

"The National Parks Service has spoken publicly and stated in their comments on the NASA DEIS that they look to acquire “Nationally Significant Properties.” They cannot take contaminated land, but, if all the test stands and archaeology are removed, the significance of the property disappears and a multi-year, multi-million dollar weed abatement and re-vegetation project will be needed. NPS will not want the property under those circumstances. Who will want it? "

"The community needs to do several things before January 2016. Since parks agencies are in financial straits, representatives of these agencies ask a common question, “How will you pay for it?” Parks in the future will be run on “Enterprise Model”. No longer will a beneficent government finance park creation and operations just because it’s the right thing to do. The parks will need to pay for themselves. We need a $20 million endowment to provide the income to finance continued preservation and maintenance of a post-cleanup parkland at SSFL. The endowment may need to be supplemented by appropriate commercial development, patterned after hotels like the Ahwahnee in Yosemite Valley, Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone, or Asilomar Conference Center, owned by California State Parks in Pacific Grove, CA."

4. When did WE and US, the SSFL/CAG, decide to do this fundraising project?

I do not think it is at all feasible for the SSFL/CAG to raise $20 million, nor to push through the cleanup and the development of Hotels, Conference Centers, etc. in the next year and a half.  Realistically the SSFL/ CAG can respond to requests from Responsible Parties for input on Scoping, Preliminary and Final EIR, EIS, and decisions on the preservation of archaeological and cultural/historical structures.

"Our community has a year and a half to accomplish those goals. We need your help. We need the rest of the community to join us in this important endeavor. Your office can help enormously in that effort. "

**"Please respond by sending us ( contact information for the appropriate member(s) of your staff who will engage with us." 

Diana Dixon-Davis

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 A Member Viewpoint item by John Luker           

February 28, 2014 

An Open Letter

  An Open Letter to Elected Officials Concerning Cleanup at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

To Local, State, and Federal Elected Officials

(See specific adressees on final page)

On February 13, 2014, the community participated with NASA in the final meeting of National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) Section 106 Consultations about historic and cultural preservation at the NASA-administered section of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. Our observations and our request for your engagement follow.

1. Demolition of Rocket Engine Test Stands

The possible loss of the test stands in the Alpha, Bravo and Coca historic districts concerns us.

Three opinions were held by Community members and resource professionals at the Section 106 Consultations.

  • At least one test stand from each of the three historic districts, Alpha, Bravo and Coca, should be preserved as the physical embodiment of a watershed development in Human History: leaving the earth and traveling to another celestial body. The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians does not support this position for Coca.
  • One, or at most two, test stands should be preserved as a monument and historical artifact.
  • These test stands are “…twisted hunks of rusted metal with no historic value.” 

There should be a public debate on the merits of these differing positions.

     a.  Coca Test Stands

NASA reported that they will demolish all rocket engine test stands in the Coca complex as soon as they file the Record of Decision (ROD) for their Environmental Impact Statement. Thus, these test stands will be dismantled in the April – August, 2014 time-frame.  

NASA is considering parceling out pieces of the test stands to museums or schools that may want them, but does not guarantee that a visitor center for a museum or park at SSFL would be established. 


       b. Alfa / Bravo Test Stands

NASA will defer demolition of the test stands in the Alfa and Bravo sections of Area II until January 2016 to allow GSA to find a new owner for Area II and determine if the new owner will want the stands to be preserved. If a new owner is not identified by then, or if they do not want them, the Alfa and Bravo test stands too will be demolished.

The potential loss of these test stands concerns us.

It is of great cultural significance that John Glenn orbited the earth because the engines and components on his Atlas Rocket were tested on these stands. Almost every engine on every manned spacecraft was tested on these three sets of stands.

NASA considers the following video to be part of the mitigation for tearing down a monument eligible for the National Historic Register:

The Alfa/Bravo/Coca test stands and supporting control rooms are identified as Historic Districts and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP, or National Register, for short).

NASA however believes the retention and treatment of the test stands will be too expensive, despite the fact that the excessive clean-up standards in the AOC, as questioned by the Inspector General’s Report, have proceeded regardless of the excessive expenses they entail.

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