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NBC4: Did kids camp owner and a state agency collude to whitewash contamination risk?

NBC4's Joel Grover points to the Santa Susana Field Lab from the Sage Ranch Park in the Simi Valley.
NBC4's Joel Grover points to the Santa Susana Field Lab from the Sage Ranch Park in the Simi Valley.
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Off-Ramp host John Rabe talks with NBC4 investigative reporter Joel Grover about the latest installment of LA's Nuclear Secret, an 8-part series on chemical and nuclear contamination from the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Simi Valley.

"It seemed not really a technical analysis but rather a piece of propaganda to provide cover for the operators of the camp," said Dan Hirsch, Director of UC Santa Cruz's Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy. "They ignore large amounts of data that show contamination." -- LA's Nuclear Secret

NBC4's Joel Grover has spent the last couple years looking into the ramifications of one of the most troubling stories in LA's history: the near meltdown at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in 1959 and the way industry and government covered up the extent of the contamination.

The latest installment in the series looks at communication between the California Department of Toxic Substance Control and the Brandeis Bardin Institute, which runs Camp Alonim, a very popular kids' camp near the field lab.

Grover says, "We filed a public records request for all  email communication between the owners of the camp and the DTSC, and what we got back was email correspondence, the camp saying 'we're going through a PR crisis because of the NBC reports; we need you to make a statement that our camp is safe.' It's highly unusual for a state agency to give cover to a private landowner."

Watch Part 8 of LA's Nuclear Secret

Grover sites sources within the DTSC who say the agency routinely massages data, and scientists who say a recent white paper giving the all-clear to the camp is rife with problems, including false claims and outdated safety standards.

Why would American Jewish University, which owns the institute and the camp, be so worried? Grover says it goes back to 1995, when the institute settled a lawsuit with field lab owner Boeing, and in exchange agreed to indemnify Boeing. "So if anyone were to turn around and sue the camp," Grover says, "claiming contamination made my kid sick, the camp is on the hook for those lawsuits."

Use the audio player to listen to my full conversation with NBC4's Joel Grover, and you'll get much more detail on the story.