Welcome to the NASA Groundwater Cleanup Project Website
Welcome to the NASA Groundwater Cleanup Program website for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), created in conjunction with NASA's 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 and the ability to contact Program Managers for additional information.
NASA is committed to its cleanup responsibilities of groundwater chemicals originating from long-discontinued waste disposal practices at JPL and to keeping the public informed about its activities. We encourage you to join our electronic mailing list and/or to submit questions or feedback via the buttons in the column at the left of this page.
To help get you started, you are invited to read a NASA fact sheet that is an overview of the environmental investigations and cleanup activities in the Cleanup Project.
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
Current - A new NASA-funded and constructed groundwater extraction well became operational in 2016 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 from long-discontinued waste disposal practices 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. During the well development phase, extraction of approximately 7.5 million gallons of water -- enough to serve 55 homes for a year -- was required. 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 submitted a detailed work plan to the State Water Board for the water to be treated first by a temporary treatment plant, tested, and treated again at the existing, permitted LAWC treatment system to meet all drinking water standards. This ‘Double Treatment’ ensured clean, high quality water and enabled a valuable resource to be saved. A fact sheet on the new LAWC well was published in April 2014 as construction began.
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.
“Year in Review” Reports -- Each year, NASA publishes a “Year in Review” report summarizing cleanup and outreach activities during the prior year.
Click here for the 2015 Year in Review.
For earlier “Year in Review” Reports – See the Archives section of this website.
NASA's Proposed Plan for Groundwater Cleanup at JPL
A Proposed Plan outlining NASA's preferred alternative for groundwater cleanup at and in the vicinity of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was published in early 2015. Since its publication, NASA solicited comments on the Proposed Plan from the public.
Project Newsletters – In our continued efforts to communicate with our neighbors and the public in general, periodically NASA issues newsletters that update the progress of the cleanup project. Click here to view the July 2014 newsletter.
For earlier Project Newsletters – See the Archives section of this website.
Community Involvement Plan -- NASA’s Community Involvement Program for the Groundwater Cleanup Project 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 uses, please click here.
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 down gradient (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.
NASA 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. 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.
Upon release of the Additional Investigation Technical Memorandum, NASA 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. 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.
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 recommendation was for NASA to proceed with 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 was and will be evaluated, at a minimum, as part of the CERCLA Five-Year Reviews for JPL. NASA agreed with EPA’s recommendation.
Pasadena Treatment Plant is Up and Running -- The NASA-funded Monk Hill Treatment System (MHTS) was officially dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 20, 2011. The plant is removing perchlorate and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from groundwater near four reopened and upgraded water production wells in Pasadena. The City-owned treatment plant was built on property adjacent to Pasadena’s Windsor Reservoir. 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.
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 environmentally sound and energy-efficient. To conserve water resources, the street-side of the finished site is now landscaped with native 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. 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 as well.
La Página Web del Programa de Limpieza del Agua Subterránea de la NASA en el Jet Propulsión Laboratory (JPL)