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NASA CERCLA Program at JPL

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  Read the latest update to NASA's groundwater cleanup project Community Involvement Plan.

Meet the Groundwater Cleanup Team
Para Más Información En Español, llame a Gabriel Romero, NASA JPL, Teléfono (818) 354-8709.
 

Welcome to the NASA Groundwater Cleanup Project Website

Welcome to the NASA Groundwater Cleanup Program Web site for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), created in conjunction with NASA's cleanup responsibilities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), sometimes referred to as "Superfund." This site provides community members and interested parties convenient access to information associated with CERCLA environmental cleanup activities at JPL.

This website is intended to provide visitors with the latest news about NASA cleanup activities, the ability to search and retrieve documents from the Information Repository database, including groundwater monitoring and other reports and articles related to the groundwater cleanup, and the ability to contact Program Managers for additional information.

NASA is committed to its cleanup responsibilities at JPL and to keeping the public informed about its activities. We encourage you to sign up on our mailing list, as well as submit questions or comments via the feedback button.

News Updates

July 2014 Newsletter is now available

Click here to view the July 2014 newsletter with news about NASA's progress removing chemicals from the groundwater beneath and adjacent to JPL. This update is another way NASA is taking steps to communicate with the local community about the Groundwater Cleanup Program.

Update to Community Involvement Plan 

NASA’s Community Involvement Program for the Groundwater Cleanup Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is committed to promoting communication between NASA and the local community. For the latest addendum to the Community Involvement Plan (CIP) describing the various approaches NASA will use, please click here.


2013 Year in Review  -- It was another year of progress for the NASA Groundwater Cleanup Program at JPL. For a summary of the accomplishments and progress made over the course of 2013, please read the 2013 Year in Review.

History and Status of NASA’s Additional Investigation Associated with Perchlorate in PWP’s Sunset Reservoir Wells 

As part of NASA's responsibilities under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERLCA), NASA performed an additional investigation in accordance with an approved Work Plan . The objectives of the investigation were to (1) evaluate the downgradient (southern) extent of chemicals originating from the JPL facility and (2) to determine if the occurrence of perchlorate in the Sunset Reservoir area was associated with migration from the JPL facility.

Upon completion of the investigation, NASA prepared a Technical Memorandum , summarizing the results.  NASA also produced fact sheets about the results of the study and the comprehensive methods (or tools) that were used to understand the technical information. One fact sheet explained the Four Tools used as the basis for the study. The other fact sheet summarized the Results of the study.

In addition, Dr. Neil Sturchio, an expert in stable isotope analysis with the University of Illinois-Chicago, has issued a summary and analysis of the isotopic section of the report. Dr. Sturchio's summary supported NASA’s conclusions that (1) the chemicals from the JPL facility are captured within the Monk Hill Subarea, and (2) the perchlorate detected at the Sunset Reservoir wells is of a different origin than that used at, and originating from, JPL.

Upon release of the Additional Investigation Technical Memorandum, NASA met with PWP and separately with the Remediation Project Managers (RPMs) to present the findings, and encourage technical discussions associated with perchlorate in the Sunset Reservoir Wells.  NASA also invited broad review of its study and received several sets of comments .

NASA thoroughly reviewed all comments submitted and prepared a detailed Response to Comments . NASA’s responses stressed the importance of considering the information generated by all the tools together to understand the complexities of underground conditions and the existence of perchlorate in local groundwater.  NASA again concluded that (1) the chemicals from the JPL facility are captured within the Monk Hill Subarea, and (2) the perchlorate detected at the Sunset Reservoir wells is of a different origin than that used at, and originating from, JPL.

Following finalization of NASA’s Responses to Comments, PWP contracted Geoscience Support Services, Inc. who prepared a technical report on the perchlorate contamination in local groundwater.  The Geoscience Report primarily focused on additional groundwater modeling analysis and their interpretations of the perchlorate isotope data.  NASA responded to the Geoscience report, providing comments and recommendation .  EPA also issued a letter in response to the Geoscience Report.  Subsequently, during a teleconference on technical aspects of modeling results, NASA, PWP, and EPA concluded that Geoscience did not provide sufficient analysis in their groundwater modeling results to substantiate their interpretations.  PWP and Geoscience initially agreed to conduct additional groundwater modeling consistent with the recommendations provided by NASA.  PWP ultimately decided not to pursue this additional analysis, citing the expense.

NASA decided to submit the Additional Investigation findings to outside peer review for publication. NASA’s Additional Investigation was published in Environmental Forensics Journal in March 2010.  The article was titled, “Integrated Environmental Forensics Approach for Evaluating the Extent of Dissolved Perchlorate Originating from Multiple Sources.”

PWP continued to consider the results of studies regarding perchlorate in the Sunset Reservoir Wells and submitted additional technical memoranda to EPA prepared by a PWP staff member, David Kimbrough, Ph.D.  PWP prepared three separate memoranda.

NASA thoroughly evaluated PWP’s technical memoranda and had Dr. Neil Sturchio re-evaluate the perchlorate and geochemical data considering PWP’s findings.  NASA prepared a detailed Technical Response to the PWP memoranda and again concluded based on all available data/evidence that (1) the chemicals from the JPL facility are captured within the Monk Hill Subarea, and, (2) the perchlorate detected at the Sunset Reservoir wells is of a different origin than that used at, and originating from, JPL.

The Sunset Reservoir Wells were discussed at the April 30, 2013 RPM meeting.  A Meeting Summary was prepared by NASA, which included the presentation made by NASA and the presentation made by PWP.  In addition, PWP shared with NASA a lengthier set of back-up slides associated with the technical memoranda prepared by David Kimbrough, Ph.D.  During the meeting, EPA concluded that the studies by NASA and PWP indicate that the Sunset Reservoir Wells should not be part of the JPL CERCLA Site at this time.  EPA’s recommended path forward for the groundwater remediation at the JPL CERCLA Site includes moving forward to a final groundwater Record of Decision (ROD) for JPL focused on the Monk Hill Subarea, with continued monitoring of groundwater between the JPL Site and the Sunset Reservoir Wells.  Data from this monitoring will be evaluated, at a minimum, as part of the CERCLA Five-Year Reviews for JPL.  NASA agrees with EPA’s recommendation. 

NASA Groundwater Cleanup Program Continues to Make Progress 

5-Year Review -- NASA, in conjunction with the U.S. EPA, has conducted a five-year review of environmental cleanup remedies initiated at the JPL site. Click here to read a fact sheet summarizing that review, and click here to read the complete five-year review. Click here to read the concurrence letter from the EPA.

December 2011 Newsletter is now available

Click here to view the December 2011 Newsletter concerning NASA's progress in its effort to remove chemicals in the groundwater beneath and adjacent to JPL. This update is another way NASA is taking steps to communicate with the community about the Groundwater Cleanup Program.

New Pasadena Treatment Plant is Up and Running --  The NASA-funded Monk Hill Treatment System (MHTS) is operational and is removing perchlorate and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from groundwater near four previously closed and now upgraded water production wells in Pasadena. The City-owned treatment plant, built on property adjacent to Pasadena’s Windsor Reservoir, was officially dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 20, 2011.

With its completion and with a California Department of Public Health (DPH) drinking water permit issued on March 17, 2011, Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) has again begun serving clean water to its customers from the wells.

The wells -- Arroyo Well, Well 52, Ventura Well, and Windsor Well -- tap an aquifer beneath the Hahamongna Watershed Park in the Arroyo Seco. Pasadena closed the wells between 1985 and 1990 when elevated levels of VOCs were discovered in nearby groundwater. In 1990, a NASA-funded closed aeration carbon filter treatment system was installed to remove VOCs from the groundwater. Between 1997 and 2002, when perchlorate in the water was detected for the first time at elevated concentrations, the wells were closed again.

PWP and NASA collaboratively oversaw the design and construction of the new system to remove perchlorate and VOCs from water drawn by these four wells so that the City could apply to the state to reopen the wells. As part of the MHTS, the four wells were also upgraded to improve their overall infrastructure and their ability to extract groundwater for treatment at the new plant. NASA assisted PWP in preparing for a February 24, 2011 DPH public hearing on DPH’s then-proposed decision to allow PWP to serve drinking water from the four wells, and three weeks later, the permit was issued.
 
Click here for a complete fact sheet on the MHTS.  The fact sheet was prepared during the treatment plant's construction phase.

Monk Hill Treatment System is Clean and Green -- NASA worked closely with Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) and solicited involvement with Windsor Reservoir neighbors in the design and construction of a treatment system that is as environmentally sound and as energy-efficient as possible. In the months leading up to the start of construction, NASA sought public input on landscaping elements that would assist in having the plant better blend into the residential area. Suggestions made by members of the public were incorporated into the final design and landscaping. Additionally, to conserve water resources, the finished site is now landscaped with native, drought-tolerant plant species. In the Arroyo Seco, NASA designed upgrades to the four previously closed wells, including their connection to modified pipelines and new high-efficiency pumps. This improves energy efficiency and reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 123 metric tons per year, equivalent to the annual GHG of 23 passenger vehicles. NASA also suggested and evaluated the use of solar energy for the project. The City followed through by installing more than 50,000 square feet of silicon photovoltaic panels on the Windsor Reservoir. The Windsor Solar Project, which went online at the end of May 2011, should offset more than 20 percent of the electricity consumed by the treatment plant, PWP officials said. More than 95 percent of the plant’s construction waste materials were recycled, including 744 tons of rock, 48 tons of concrete, 3,144 tons of soil, eight tons of steel, and five tons of mixed debris.

Other NASA Green Initiatives

NASA pursues green initiatives at its Centers across the country.  Read about NASA's green initiatives for water cleanup at JPL here and see what some of the other Centers are doing, too.


Last Modified: Oct 8 2014 3:50PM
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