guest post by Kim Cooper of Esotouric tours
Last week, The Department of Energy announced that an agreement had been reached with the California Sate Historic Preservation Office, to allow archeologists and representatives of native communities to examine areas of historic significance prior to toxic remediation at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) Superfund site.
Curious to learn more about the Pre-Conquest artifacts on the site, I threw some keywords into a search engine, and found… something else entirely.
Scanned for OCR search and visible to the internet, though at least partially otherwise unlisted, I had hit upon a cache of PDF files hosted on an obsolete version of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory cleanup website.
These documents, written by and to Rocketdyne, Boeing, independent scientists, government agencies, lawyers, politicians and community groups in some cases are stamped or inscribed with strong warnings of confidentiality or use restriction.
Among the restricted documents I read was HDMSE00251897.pdf, a 1957 memo documenting repeated incidents of sludge and discolored water runoff onto Brandeis Camp, a Jewish retreat downstream from Rocketdyne—two years before the partial meltdown of the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) nuclear power plant. This document was referenced in the 2015 NBC4 investigative series L.A.’s Nuclear Secret, but appears not to have been published.
While I know a thing or two about the Santa Susana Mountains, my particular expertise is in the cultural history of local religious cults like The Royal Arms of the Great Eleven and WKFL Fountain of the World.
Still, I know enough about the SSFL site to recognize this trove of material as being of great interest to the citizens of the Simi Valley area, and to advocacy groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles, Committee to Bridge the Gap, Parents vs. SSFL and The Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition who have long pushed the government and property owners for transparency.
I believe that Californians have a right to know what happened at the SSFL and what has been done to track and remediate contamination of the site, adjacent parcels and the water table—especially in the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire, which began at, and burned across, the contaminated site.
But I didn’t know where to begin to create a full record of the material stored on https://dtsc-ssfl.com.
So I reached out to the MichaelKohlhaas.org blog, whose extraordinary work obtaining and publishing documents has shone needed light on the secretive activities of local government, charter schools, Business Improvement Districts, Neighborhood Councils, non-profits and business interests—including the ongoing crisis of non-profit stewardship affecting the American Cinematheque.
They recognized the significance of the discovery, and knew how to use a script to download many files hosted on the website, not just the handful that I’d found through keyword searches. They told me that this material, having been posted to the public internet, is no longer subject to any claims that it’s exempt from release under the Public Records Act. So it has been mirrored for public search and download at Archive.org as part of the larger Community Texts collection.
We hope that these documents will be of use to those who study the history of the Santa Susanna Field Laboratory and who are dedicated to ensuring that the Pre-Conquest artifacts and historic aerospace structures on the site are protected and the soil and water table are cleaned up. Please let us know in the comments if any of this material is significant.
And for those reading this who share my interest in archeology, architecture and cultural history, see Final Report Cultural Resource Compliance and Monitoring Results for USEPA’s Radiological Study of the SSFL Area IV and Northern Buffer Zone (pdf link), From the Stone Age to the Space Age: SSFL Cultural History (pdf link) and Historic Resources Survey and Assessment of the NASA Facility at SSFL (pdf link).
Image of endearingly creepy cult den moms is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.