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East Ventura County Focus

SIMI VALLEY : Rockwell Sued by Cancer Victim, 23

June 13, 1995|DWAYNE BRAY

A former Simi Valley woman filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Rockwell Inc., claiming she contracted thyroid cancer while playing in the fields and drinking the water near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory.

Summer Kristine Colvin, 23, who lived in the city from 1983 to 1986, alleged that the operators of the nuclear-reactor test lab failed to clean up the soil and water following meltdowns and radiation leaks.

Colvin's attorney, Michael Kushner, said the suit filed in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles seeks $55 million, including $50 million in punitive damages.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Rockwell subsidiary Rocketdyne, NASA, the U. S. Department of Energy, Atomics International and North America Aviation Inc. Rockwell officials could not be reached Monday evening.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Rockwell has in recent years settled at least eight claims of radiation-induced cancer with company employees.

Safety has long been a concern at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, which has been in operation since 1947, when it was opened by Rocketdyne's predecessor, North American Aviation.

Incidents there have chiefly involved problems with nuclear testing and environmental contamination. For example, in 1959 there was a partial meltdown of a small nuclear test reactor at the facility. Company officials later said the incident posed no danger to workers or the public.

Kushner did not specify exactly where Colvin lived in Simi Valley, saying only that it was "in the shadows of Atomics Rocketdyne facility."

She discovered she had thyroid cancer a year ago. She had her thyroid removed, but recently stopped chemotherapy because she is pregnant, Kushner said. Doctors have told her that the only way she could have contracted thyroid cancer is through exposure to radiation, he said.

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