The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it has ordered the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to take immediate and long-term actions to address soil contamination at its Ames Research Center at the Moffett Field Naval Air Station in Mountain View, Calif. EPA hopes the order will clear the way for a long-term cleanup agreement with NASA.
San Joaquin Valley residents may be surprised to learn that the high tech facility, located in California's famed Silicon Valley, could be the source of dangerous contaminants. Residents here more often have heard stories of major oil companies contaminating water with spilled oil or concerns related to the Buttonwillow hazardous waste disposal facility near Bakersfield.
However, EPA's action against NASA is just another example of not only how private industry can harm the environment, but also how government operated programs can as well.
EPA said that soil contamination at the site includes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, chromium, zinc, cadmium, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). These harmful chemicals threaten local wildlife, including the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse. Additionally, EPA is concerned that an adjacent stormwater retention pond that the U.S. Navy spent $9.7 million cleaning up in 2012 may be re-contaminated by these substances.
Classified as a Superfund Site, EPA is partnering with the California Regional Water Quality Control Board to negotiate NASA's facility-wide cleanup responsibilities. NASA activities conducted under that agreement will be monitored by EPA to ensure they are completed in a proper and timely manner.
For an example of the types of industrial activities that occur at Ames, please click on this link for an attached NASA video discussing NASA's development of a heat shield chemical for the SpaceX Dragon space vehicle.