CLEANUP OF TOXICS AT JPL STUDIED NASA TO PRESENT PLAN AT MEETING.
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE - Decades ago, JPL workers routinely poured toxic chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride and rocket fuel residue down sinks at the lab.
The chemicals drained into pits designed to allow liquid waste to seep into the surrounding soil.
``At the time, it was the most accepted practice,'' said Peter Robles of NASA's Management Office. ``We found out later that that was a mistake, and we had to correct that.''
Although the seepage pits were replaced with a sewer system during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the damage was done.
A 1990 investigation revealed the presence of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list two years later.
Now the National Aeronautics and Space Administration wants to remove the compounds from the soil and on Wednesday will hold a public hearing in Altadena to present its plan.
Officials insist the compounds don't pose a human health risk because they are trapped 50 feet or more below the surface. But, they say, they want to clean up the VOCs before they migrate through the soil and permeate the ground water below.
The meeting, the last in a series of three, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. in the auditorium of Eliot Middle School, 2184 N. Lake Ave. For more information call Peter Robles of NASA at (818) 393-2920.
The agencies involved want to use a technique called soil vapor extraction to literally vacuum the volatile organic compounds out of the soil and trap them in an above-ground well.
Once the compounds have been removed from the soil, long-term testing will be done to ensure they haven't ``rebounded,'' or returned.
NASA estimates it will take about five wells 200 feet deep to clean the 45 acres.
One of the wells is already up and running as part of a pilot program started in 1998. To date, soil vapor extraction has removed about 200 pounds of chemicals from below the surface. Up to 5,040 pounds remain, according to NASA.
Zuromski said the plan will cost about $750,000 a year for the next five years. Monitoring will cost an additional $500,000 a year for about 20 years, after the initial cleanup.
That money will come from the $3.8 million a year NASA has designated for Superfund activities - including studies and ground water monitoring - at JPL.
This is one of the first steps in cleanup efforts at the lab. Next year, NASA will present its plan to clean up ground water at JPL.
In the late 1990s, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issued a report that stated contaminated ground water and soil at JPL are not likely to present a past, present or future health risk.
However, the agency cannot determine the risks associated with exposure to perchlorate, a solid-rocket fuel component, in ground water before 1997. The perchlorate issue will also be addressed next year.
A 1997 lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 55 area claimants alleges exposure to JPL-related contamination caused cancers and other illnesses. The suit has not been resolved, said plaintiffs' attorney Gary Soter.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jun 17, 2001|
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