Space Center a Chemical Mess

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 @ 05:08 PM gHale

They put a man on the moon, put shuttles into orbit around the globe and built a space laboratory, but they didn’t clean up after themselves. Now NASA’s mess will cost the environment and taxpayers billions of dollars and decades of time.

Carcinogenic chemicals used in the launching of the space shuttles, Apollo moon shots and other rockets seeped deep into sandy soils beneath launch pads and other structures at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Dow Hit with Fines for Chemical Leaks
Alarm System Catches Chemical Leak
Chemical Co. Faces Process Safety Citations

They form a toxic mess that will take at least $1 billion to clean up over quite a few decades.

NASA estimated it will spend $96 million in the next 30 years at Kennedy Space Center, including $6 million this year. The Air Force said it will take another $50 million to get the rest of its cleanups at Cape Canaveral under way by 2017.

“In the past, back in Apollo, the normal disposal of the solvent cleaning was down the drain … out the back door,” said Rosaly Santos-Ebaugh, Kennedy’s remediation program manager, the person responsible for leading the cleanup.

An analysis of hundreds of pages of Kennedy and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station cleanup records and extensive databases of toxic spills obtained by FLORIDA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act found:
• At least 2 square miles of chemically contaminated soil and groundwater, some of the “plumes” reaching as deep as 90 feet, at Kennedy and the air station, where the earliest rockets blasted off. That includes 600 acres of chemical plumes at Kennedy or nearby sites under former NASA control and 1,030 acres at Canaveral.
• Of 267 known contamination sites at Kennedy or under former NASA control, 141 are clean. The other half are either under investigation, undergoing treatment or left for contaminants to break down naturally.
• By far, the most common contaminant is a chlorinated solvent called trichloroethylene, or “trike,” and its breakdown products — substances known to cause birth defects and cancer and reaching concentrations thousands of times higher than federal drinking water standards allow.

No one drinks water drawn at the space center, nor the air station, but federal law still mandates the cleanup, at taxpayer expense.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.