In late September, Joel Grover, investigative reporter for our media partner, NBC4, told us about his latest report. It was called LA's Nuclear Secret, and it detailed what might have been the country's worst nuclear accident: the meltdown of a reactor at the Santa Susana Test Lab, and the subsequent and repeated release of radiation and other dangerous contaminants from the site over the course of years. It also told how Boeing, the current owner of the site, has tried to block full cleanup.
Now, the I-Team is back with a report that airs Monday night at 11 looking at contamination at one of the Field Lab's neighbors, the Brandeis Bardin Institute, now owned by American Jewish University, and the Institute's refusal to release all test results done at the property, the largest Jewish-owned single piece of land outside Israel and home to a popular summer camp for kids that is woven into the fabric of Jewish life in LA.
Erwin Sokol was a BBI counselor in the 1950s, he sent his kids to the camp, and his wife served on the Institute's board of directors. They're also heavy contributors, and he told Joel they feel betrayed. “Public safety is the number one issue," he says. "Health is the number one issue. That goes beyond our love for the institute. I think a fence should really be put around it and it should be locked up, until we find out more what’s going on, exactly what’s going on there.
Rabbi Lee Bycel was President of BBI in the early 2000s and he says he asked for all the information on contamination before he took the job, and was told he shouldn't worry about it. He told Joel: “It’s the moral thing to say 'show us all your tests.' That shows that you care about the institute. Transparency has to be demanded by everyone who sends people there, everyone who loves the place.”
Joel says he's repeatedly asked the institute to sit down for an interview and answer the questions the community wants answered, but has been rebuffed. AJU did send a long written response on Friday; here's an excerpt.
Based on an exhaustive records review and the conclusion of scientific experts, we found no cause for concern about the health and safety of the campers, staff or other visitors – past or present. Current testing confirms the safety of the property.
-- Excerpt of American Jewish University statement to KNBC
NBC4 has posted the entire response from AJU, with extensive annotation correcting what it believes to be overstatements and misstatements. It's a must-read.