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Families Fighting Cancer Call for Cleanup of Santa Susana Field Lab

Cleanup of Santa Susana Field Lab

In our previous blog post, we detailed the most recent developments in the ongoing Roundup cancer litigation, including the $80 million in damages awarded to a northern California farmer who said Roundup caused his cancer.

While that case focused on the dangers associated with a well-known consumer product – one used more often than any other pesticide, from farm owners to family man – another cancer-related battle that’s been brewing for decades has a lesser known adversary: the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

High Cancer Rates Prompt Residents’ Call for Cleanup

The Santa Susana Field Lab, located in the hills bordering northern LA and Ventura County, was a former nuclear testing site and the home of a partial nuclear reactor meltdown covered up for decades by the U.S. Department of Energy. Today, it’s become a focal point for concerned residents who say the site is causing cancer and other health-related issues. They’re demanding the government live up to its promises to clean up the facility.

During its time in operation in the mid-20th century, the Santa Su Field Lab was home to a number of nuclear testing projects. A number of companies, contractors, and government agencies, such as Rocketdyne and NASA, used the facility to develop and test liquid-propellant rocket engines for the U.S. space program, and operated several nuclear reactors to explore the potential of nuclear energy.

Though chosen for its location in the outskirts of Los Angeles, urban sprawl has filled the areas surrounding the Lab with suburbs, shopping malls, and thousands of people. Today, more than 200,000 people live within 5 miles of the Lab. Over half a million live within 10 miles.

As reported recently by KCRW, many of those people have concerns that their proximity to the former nuclear testing site is causing higher-than-normal rates of cancer. The segment profiles the story of one young child diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a highly aggressive and rare form of childhood cancer, as well as another nearby diagnosed with leukemia. The mothers of the children soon discovered 54 other children in their community were diagnosed with cancer in the past six years. They say it’s not a coincidence.

According to a federally funded study from 2007, researchers found a 60% higher rate of certain types of cancers among residents living close to the Santa Susana Field Lab. The site’s history of contamination includes multiple nuclear reactor accidents, a partial meltdown in 1959, open-air nuclear waste burning, and “flagrant” environmental violations.

The DoE, NASA, and Boeing, which acquired Rocketdyne and much of the Field Lab in the 1990s, were part of a 2010 agreement that projected a full cleanup of by 2017. Not much has happened in the time since, and new concerns, such as exposure created by the Woolsey Fire, are fueling efforts to compel the state and the federal government to live up to their promise.

With growing attention, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which oversees the cleanup project, issued warnings in January and March that the agencies need to follow up.

Corporations, Contamination & Injury Claims

The Santa Susana Field Lab and the contaminated site have long been swept under the rug. A nuclear expert who helped expose the cover-up of the 1959 meltdown, Dan Hirsch, says that has a lot to do with corporate greed. To corporations, it’s cheaper to pay for health problems they cause innocent people, than it is to clean up a massive mess.

That sentiment is unfortunately not uncommon in personal injury cases involving corporations victims claim to be at fault for their pain and suffering, including cases involving:

  • Toxic exposure caused by dangerous business practices and industrial processes;
  • Defective consumer products, including defective drugs and medical devices;
  • Transportation accidents caused by corporate shortcuts and regulatory violations;
  • Negligent hiring and failures to properly supervise workers;
  • Premises liability and hazardous property conditions.

Claims involving any corporate defendant can quickly become complex, and litigation over toxic exposure and government liability are some of the most challenging. In some cases, unique laws governing liability – whether it’s a City transit operator alleged to have been liable for a bus accident or a federal agency accused of failing to cleanup nuclear waste – create rules and procedures that differ from those which apply to personal injury cases filed against a private party.

At Biren Law Group, our Los Angeles Trial Attorneys are committed to the communities and clients who so often entrust us with important cases during difficult times in their lives. We support the residents fighting this cause, and the efforts of advocates who want to ensure responsible parties are held accountable for cleaning up the contaminated worksite.

These types of issues are precisely why we are so passionate about fighting for victims and families who suffer harm due to the negligence and wrongful acts of others – and why we continue to serve clients across Southern California in a range of civil injury cases. If you have questions about your legal rights following any type of accident, injury, or illness caused by another, we’re available to help. Contact us for a consultation.