Nov 26, 2018
The devastating Woolsey Fire in Southern California began on the site of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), which is known to be contaminated by large amounts of radioactive nuclear waste and highly toxic chemicals.
For six decades, military contractors Rocketdyne and Boeing, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Air and Space Administration, built and experimented with rocket engines and nuclear reactors at Santa Susana, without paying any attention to pollution standards or safety standards. There were at least four nuclear accidents at the site, including a meltdown of a nuclear reactor in 1959.
The Woolsey Fire burnt much of Santa Susana, undoubtedly releasing significant amounts of radioactive and toxic chemicals into the air. But officials at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control were quick to announce – without even waiting for test results! – that the fire released no radiation or hazardous substances. And L.A. County and U.S. Department of Energy officials quickly followed suit, telling the public not to worry about the fire spreading poison or radiation.
But those officials were not fooling area residents. “We’ve learned not to trust anything DTSC says,” said Melissa Bumstead from nearby West Hills, whose daughter twice survived leukemia. For decades, the Department of Toxic Substance Control and other government agencies have lied to the public. They conspired to cover up the 1959 meltdown, for example, until, in 1979, some university students accidentally found documents mentioning that disaster. But after 1979 also, government and company officials broke practically every promise they made to the public. It was not until 28 years later, in 2007, that California politicians passed a law mandating a cleanup. And today, 11 years later, neither Boeing, the present owner of the site, nor any government agencies have even begun to clean up!
Executives of Rocketdyne and Boeing, and government officials who allowed these companies to massively contaminate and not clean up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, have consciously chosen to put the profits of a few companies above the well-being of the population – just as capitalism dictates.
Wildfires may be a menace people have to reckon with, but the real threat to the future of humanity is the capitalist system.