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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

State Plans Internal Inquiry on Rocketdyne

April 27, 1999

SIMI VALLEY — The state Department of Health Services will investigate whether its own representatives worked with Rocketdyne to dissolve a citizens committee overseeing health studies at the company's Santa Susana Field Laboratory, officials said Monday.

The decision to launch the internal investigation came after Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) made public a number of documents she said show how the agency and Rocketdyne officials tried two years ago to gain greater control over an inquiry into possible contamination and related illnesses caused by decades of nuclear and chemical testing at the lab.

"I can't say where this will take us, but we are taking this seriously," said Jim Stratton, deputy director of prevention services for the state agency. An outside auditing agency will conduct the investigation.

Rocketdyne officials denied any wrongdoing.

"Our policy has always been to be candid, open and give them what they want. To say that there's been collusion is absolutely ludicrous," said Steve Lafflam, Rocketdyne's division director for safety, health and environmental affairs.

Kuehl said internal memos, copies of e-mail and letters she obtained illustrate that Rocketdyne and health officials planned to dissolve the committee. She said they apparently wanted to replace members with others who would be more receptive to the company's position.

The eight-member citizen's committee includes six scientists and two community representatives. The group was formed several years ago to oversee a $1.6-million health study of Rocketdyne workers and to direct a multimillion-dollar cleanup of the 2,600-acre facility.

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