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Rocketdyne, Marquardt to Continue Receiving Fuels

October 17, 1987|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

A recent agreement will halt shipments of highly toxic rocket fuel through Los Angeles on their way to destinations outside the city, but two aerospace firms in the San Fernando Valley will continue to receive the chemicals, the Air Force confirmed Friday.

The Rocketdyne rocket-engine testing facility in the Santa Susana Mountains above Canoga Park and the Marquardt Co. in Van Nuys receive shipments of the toxic rocket fuel, nitrogen tetroxide, said Phebe Brown, a spokeswoman for the San Antonio Air Logistics Center at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas.

The center manages the purchase and shipment of rocket fuels used in all Air Force projects, Brown said.

The Marquardt Co. also receives shipments of hydrazine, an explosive and also highly toxic rocket fuel, according to the Air Force.

No details on the quantities shipped to the two companies or the routes used by shipping companies to deliver the fuels were made available by the Air Force.

The companies are the only two in the metropolitan Los Angeles area that receive rocket-fuel shipments, Brown said.

Representatives of the two companies refused comment on the disclosures by the Air Force.

Shipments Spawn Outcry

The shipment of the dangerous chemicals in tanker trucks along the Ventura Freeway through the densely populated San Fernando Valley has raised an outcry from local, state and federal officials from the Los Angeles area.

Rocket fuel for several years has been shipped on congested metropolitan freeways on the way from out-of-state manufacturers to Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc. The fuels are used to launch military rockets there.

Hazardous materials experts say that a spill involving a tanker truck loaded with rocket fuel could cause thousands of deaths and injuries.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley announced last week that the Department of Defense has agreed to reroute rocket-fuel shipments away from the City of Los Angeles through the desert north of Los Angeles County. But that agreement applies only to shipments destined for military bases and defense contractors outside of the city.

For shipments to rocket-fuel users in the city, the Pentagon has agreed to give four hours' advance notice to the California Highway Patrol, which in turn is to notify city police and fire officials. Shipments of the rocket fuels will be limited to between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., the agreement said.

Purposes Described

Rocketdyne, a division of Rockwell International Corp., tests main engines and some smaller engines used on space shuttles, as well as military rocket engines, at its 3,000-acre site in the mountain range separating Los Angeles and Ventura counties in the West San Fernando Valley.

The fuels used for testing of the main space shuttle engine are liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen, a company spokesman said.

The Marquardt Co., a division of the International Signal and Control Group based in Lancaster, Pa., manufactures rocket engines used on satellites and on the space shuttles, company spokesman Joe Posphichal said.

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