Council District 12 honors Community Member Bonnie Klea as the CD12 Pioneer Woman of the Year
Posted by Councilmember Englander on March 31, 2017 at 2:46 PM
Today, I was proud to honor Bonnie Klea in council during the 2017 Pioneer Woman of the Year Awards for her exceptional work advocating for those affected by the Santa Susana Field Lab during the partial meltdown of a sodium reactor had occurred in 1959 at the site.
Bonnie Klea was born and raised in Faribault, Minnesota with four sisters. After graduating from college she bought a one-way Amtrak ticket to Los Angeles. Bonnie secured a job as a secretary at rocket engine maker Rocketdyne in the 1960s and 1970s.
Twenty years later, she started having health problems and was diagnosed with a cancer that doctors related to her time working in the nuclear industry. The battle to save her own life turned into a fight for justice for those who worked at Area IV, a portion of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory where top scientists tested rocket engines and nuclear power for decades.
After learning that the Department of Labor had denied most of the claims for compensation filed by cancer-stricken workers under the 2000 Energy Employees Occupational Illness Program Act, Bonnie compiled letters, press releases, news articles and documentaries about radioactive and chemical contamination at the site. She delivered the petition to the federal government in 2007, which led to a victory.
In 2009, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) granted a special designation for those assigned to the field lab’s 280-acre Area IV. In January, NIOSH agreed to widen the designation for those who worked in Area IV up until
1988. Almost 1,500 claims were filed by cancer-stricken employees of Area IV or their families to the federal Department of Labor. So far, more than $58 million has been paid out.
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