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.
PUBLIC NOTICE – NASA JPL Groundwater Cleanup Program Second Five-Year Review – As part of its continuing efforts to keep the community informed and involved, NASA is announcing that it will conduct a second Five-Year Review of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Groundwater Cleanup Program. This Review will evaluate ongoing efforts to clean up groundwater beneath and near JPL. While NASA takes the lead for cleanup activities at JPL, the program is being implemented with oversight from federal and state regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), Los Angeles Region. Under the requirements of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the site must be reviewed every five years. An initial Five-Year Review was completed in February 2012. In this second Five-Year Review, NASA will conduct a technical assessment of the site and determine if the three NASA-funded groundwater treatment systems currently in place, combined with a comprehensive groundwater monitoring system, continue to be protective of human health and the environment. Upon completion of that technical assessment, NASA will issue a Five-Year Review Report to document the assessment and also indicate whether any other actions are needed to improve and optimize the NASA JPL Groundwater Cleanup. The Five-Year Review Report will be reviewed by the USEPA, DTSC, and RWQCB.
NASA’s JPL Groundwater Cleanup includes the removal of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and perchlorate from groundwater beneath and in the vicinity of JPL. These chemicals originated from long discontinued liquid and solid waste disposal practices during the 1940s and 1950s when wastes from JPL drains and sinks were disposed of in brick-lined seepage pits – a waste management practice that was common at the time. The remedies currently being implemented include three groundwater extraction and above-ground treatment systems to remove VOCs and perchlorate from impacted groundwater. In addition to the ongoing operation and maintenance of these systems, NASA has implemented a long-term groundwater monitoring program to assess site conditions and evaluate cleanup progress. The goal of the JPL Groundwater Cleanup Program is to ensure that local groundwater resources meet state and federal drinking water standards.
NASA expects completion of the second Five-Year Review in February 2017. A fact sheet summarizing its preliminary findings will be made available on the NASA JPL Cleanup Program Web site: http://jplwater.nasa.gov.
For questions or concerns, please contact:
NASA Manager for Community Involvement, NASA Management Office/JPL
4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, California 91109
Phone: (818) 393-0754: Email: email@example.com
2015 Year in Review -- NASA advanced and enhanced its groundwater cleanup project at and in the vicinity of JPL during the year 2015. See our 2015 Year in Review for a summary of our major accomplishments.
News Release - A new NASA-constructed groundwater extraction well will soon be available to enhance groundwater cleanup efforts at Altadena’s Lincoln Avenue Water Company (LAWC). The well’s operation will remove chemicals in deeper levels, thus maintaining effective containment of the leading edge of groundwater chemicals originating at JPL. The well will also serve as a modern, reliable well for the LAWC, ensuring for its customers continued clean drinking water supplies for many decades. NASA completed drilling the well in April. Development of the well and test pumping to design final well equipment is scheduled to begin in early September. During this development phase, extraction of approximately 7.5 million gallons of water from the deep aquifer is required to properly develop and design the well. This water, generated over the short period of time of about three weeks, is enough to serve 55 homes for a year.
Normally, this well development water would be treated to remove chemicals and then discharged to a stormwater drain. However, considering the severe drought that California is experiencing, NASA worked in concert with the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water to identify beneficial uses for this large amount of water. Prior to proceeding, NASA submitted a detailed work plan to the State Water Board describing exactly how the water would be effectively treated and tested. After reviewing it carefully, the State Water Board agreed that the water would be treated first by a temporary treatment plant (using the same process employed by the chemical removal system already in use), tested, and followed by a second treatment process at the existing, permitted LAWC treatment system. Thus the water will be treated, tested, and treated again, and as always will meet all drinking water standards. This ‘Double Treatment’ ensures clean, high quality water and enables a valuable resource to be saved.
Fact sheet - NASA has published an updated fact sheet that is an overview of the NASA Investigation and Cleanup at JPL.
Construction of a New Extraction Well - NASA has begun construction of a new extraction well in the parking lot area behind the offices of the Lincoln Avenue Water Company at 564 West Harriett Street in Altadena. This well will improve treatment system reliability to effectively contain the leading edge of chemicals traveling from JPL. It also will increase the rate at which chemicals can be removed, thus shortening the time needed to meet NASA’s cleanup goal. Additional benefits that will result, as well as a rough timeline of the various steps in the process, are provided in this fact sheet. Beginning in early March to the end of April the actual well drilling will take place around the clock. Should you have any questions about this project please contact Merrilee Fellows at 818.393.0754.
2014 Year in Review -- NASA's Groundwater Cleanup continues to make progress. See this Year in Review for a summary of our major accomplishments in 2014.
Notice of Second Extension of the Public Comment Period on the Proposed Plan
NASA initially extended the public comment period for NASA’s Proposed Plan to January 30, 2015 and has now extended it to March 3, 2015. Submission of comments may be made as described in our prior extension.
NASA's Proposed Plan for Groundwater Cleanup at JPL
On November 12, 2014, NASA held a public meeting on its Proposed Plan for Groundwater Cleanup at JPL. At the meeting four displays were provided for public review. These displays may be viewed here: display 1, display 2, display 3, display 4.
Now Available: Proposed Plan for Groundwater Remediation at NASA JPL; Public Meeting to receive Public Comment on the Plan, Nov. 12, 2014The Proposed Plan outlining NASA's preferred alternative for groundwater cleanup at and in the vicinity of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is now available for public comment. NASA invites the public to comment on the approach described in the Proposed Plan during the public comment period November 3 - December 3, 2014. NASA invites the public to attend a Public Meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. on November 12, 2014 at the Altadena Senior Center (560 E. Mariposa St., Altadena). At this meeting public comment may be submitted verbally (transcribed by a court reporter) or in writing. This flyer provides more details on the public meeting as well as how to submit comments.
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.