HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Davis Pulls Investigation Funds, Orders Probe
Gov. Gray Davis has ordered an investigation into whether state officials worked with officials of Rocketdyne, which ran 10 nuclear reactors along the Los Angeles-Ventura County border, "to suppress a 1997 study that uncovered elevated lung cancer rates surrounding Rocketdyne's laboratory." In a letter Monday to Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), Davis said he will remove the state Department of Health from the Rocketdyne study, and ordered state Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Winston Hickox to investigate the matter ( AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/5). As a result, Davis will transfer $150,000 from next year's health department budget to the EPA. In the letter to Kuehl, Davis wrote, "By transferring these funds, I am effectively removing oversight of this effort from the Department of Health Services. I share your concerns regarding the potential health impacts on nearby communities resulting from site contamination at the (Rocketdyne) facility, and want to assure you that I will do all I can to restore public faith in the state's efforts to assist the community in addressing these concerns." Kuehl said, "I think this is a good step, because we don't want the fox guarding the henhouse. They have not been primarily concerned with guarding the public health" (Bartholomew, Ventura County Star, 5/5). Kuehl released DHS documents last month that showed apparent collusion between state officials and Rocketdyne, owned by Boeing. Both parties have denied the charge. But Jim Stratton, the DHS' deputy director of prevention services, said Davis' decision is the right one. He said, "Given the concern that's been expressed recently, the department feels this is best. The department's comfortable handing the baton to some other entity. I hope they can answer some of these questions" (AP/Times, 5/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.