September 4, 2010 - More than five decades after a partial nuclear meltdown just outside Los Angeles, state and federal officials Friday announced agreements to remove all contamination and return the atomic energy and rocket engine test site to its natural state.
Residents who have fought for years for cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory heralded the agreements signed by the Department of Energy, NASA and state officials. The agreements, which commit to a 2017 cleanup date, must still go through a public review process before they are finalized.
"It's more than we'd hoped for a long time," said Marie Mason, head of a homeowner's association whose four members have all been sick with leukemia, breast cancer or serious thyroid conditions. "We are thrilled."
During the Cold War, workers at the site, then-operated by Rocketdyne, tested more than 30,000 rockets and experimented with nuclear reactors on the hilltop where now-hollow gray buildings sit like tombstones.
By the time the lab was shuttered, testing and several nuclear accidents since 1959 left a toxic stew of radioactive and chemical contamination that many believed trickled into the communities below, causing breast cancer, thyroid conditions and a rare eye cancer among infants.