NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

A federally mandated public health assessment of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) site in Pasadena, CA, has found that groundwater at the site does not present a past, present or future public health hazard.

The public health assessment was prepared by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is available for public review and comment Aug. 21 through Sept. 20 at the Pasadena Central Library, La Canada-Flintridge Library, Altadena Library and the JPL Library.

ATSDR is responsible for evaluating whether people are being exposed to hazardous substances and, if so, whether that exposure is harmful. The agency reviewed environmental and health-related information about JPL's site in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and adjacent to the communities of Altadena, Pasadena and La Canada-Flintridge.

The facility is on the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List, i.e., Superfund sites. ATSDR is responsible for evaluating the possible human health effects of such sites.

The ATSDR noted that the water directly below JPL has never been tapped for consumption by Laboratory employees and that the water in the Arroyo Seco aquifer has been filtered and blended for safety by water purveyors for their customers. Moreover, all future use of the groundwater in the Arroyo calls for it to be properly treated, as necessary, for safe consumption.

In addition, the ATSDR report includes findings that:

Perchlorate contamination (a byproduct from rocket fuel) in off-site groundwater presents no apparent present or future public health hazard. Current sampling and blending procedures by the drinking water suppliers are expected to prevent any potential present or future public health hazards posed by perchlorate in groundwater.

The ATSDR reported that it is unlikely that any past exposure to perchlorate in groundwater posed a public health hazard. The ATSDR could not be conclusive, however, because of the lack of data on perchlorate levels before 1997.

No public health hazards are associated with exposure to contaminated soils at JPL.

The ATSDR report is available for public review and comment through Sept. 20. Comments will become part of the public record and will be addressed and included in the assessment, although the names of those commenting will not be included.

For information about the JPL site, the public health assessment or to receive a copy of the assessment, contact the ATSDR's toll-free number at(800) 447-1544, refer to the JPL site, and leave the name, address and telephone number of the person to whom the report should be mailed, or ask for health assessor W. Mark Weber or community involvement representative Linda West. Callers may also contact ATSDR's regional representative Dan Strausbaug in San Francisco, CA, at (415) 744-1774.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

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