NASA Insignia

Santa Susana Field Laboratory
Environmental Cleanup and Closure

  1. Home
  2. Contacts
[Skip main menu]
[Skip site path] Skip Navigation LinksHome > Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history and background of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL)?

The 2,850-acre SSFL is located in the Simi Valley, nearly 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, California, in southeastern Ventura County. The facility opened in 1948 and is divided into four so-called "Administrative Areas" and two areas of undeveloped land. Area II and a 41.7-acre portion of Area I are administered by NASA, and operated by Boeing. The rest of Area I and all of Areas III, IV and the undeveloped lands are owned and operated by the Boeing Company. The Department of Energy (DOE) owns facilities on a 90-acre site within Area IV, which are collectively known as the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC).

How long has NASA had a presence at the SSFL?

NASA owns and administers 451.2 acres in two Administrative Areas (Area II and a portion of Area I) of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL). NASA has operated Area II since 1973 and its portion of Area I since 1976.

What environmental investigation and cleanup is underway at the SSFL?

Historical operations and cleanup processes resulted in releases of chemicals into the environment. As part of NASA’s past operations in Areas I and II, the most frequently used chemicals were various fuels, oils, liquid oxygen, propellants, freon and solvents such as trichloroethylene (TCE). TCE is part of a group of chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Also found at SSFL are items such as paint and transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Since the early 1980s, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has been the lead agency for the SSFL cleanup under the California Health and Safety Code, Chapters 6.5 and 6.8. NASA, Boeing and DOE each have the responsibility for environmental investigation and cleanup in areas in which it operated.

More details about the cleanup can be found under the question: What has NASA accomplished to date?

What is NASA’s long-term commitment to SSFL?

NASA is committed to the cleanup of our property that meets regulatory approval for any and all overseeing agencies. We will continue to work with the regulatory agencies to move the cleanup process forward.

What is NASA’s role in the cleanup of SSFL?

NASA is fully involved in the cleanup process for the areas of SSFL that NASA owns. NASA has responsibility for the investigation and cleanup of Area II and NASA's portion of Area I.

What has NASA accomplished to date?

NASA has accomplished a number of cleanup actions at SSFL. These have included removing the former LOX Plant in Area I and cleaning up debris from the plant. Actions in Area II have included:

  • Removal of the Propellant Launch Facility (PLF) near the Expendable Launch Vehicle Facility and cleaning up 3,000 cubic yards of mercury contamination in surface soil and sediment around it
  • Removal of 2,000 pounds of VOCs since the 1980s
  • Cleaning and closing four other facilities and a number of ponds and related drainage systems
  • Underground Storage Tank (UST) removals
  • Removal of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) near LOX plant.

NASA has also installed treatment systems in Area II to clean up 1.7 billion gallons of groundwater since 1984. A new, centralized treatment system is scheduled to begin operating in 2009.

NASA has been working for several years with Boeing and DOE to study the geological, hydrological and chemical properties at the SSFL, guided by an advisory panel of experts. Advanced scientific technologies have been used to collect and analyze a vast array of data from this complex environmental system, including 5,000 rock samples and 11,000 groundwater samples, as of 2007.

With Boeing and DOE, NASA is conducting extensive groundwater characterization to: organize and refine what is already known; verify that sufficient data exist to describe site conditions; and identify what else needs to be known. Current investigations will evaluate what longer-term actions for surface soil and sediment and groundwater contamination are needed to protect public health and the environment. The Environmental Cleanup page contains additional information about NASA’s environmental cleanup investigation and cleanup activities at SSFL.

What is in the groundwater on NASA-adminstered SSFL property?

There have been several chemicals found in the groundwater at SSFL, especially in Area II, where rocket engines for several NASA and USAF programs were tested. Various chemicals – solvents, petroleum products and dioxins, as well as some metals – have been detected in SSFL soil, surface water and groundwater. In 1984, the solvent trichlorethylene (TCE) was discovered in groundwater beneath the SSFL. TCE was the primary chemical used as a safeguard to clean liquid-fueled engines before and after each test. TCE made its way into soil and groundwater. Approximately 97% of the TCE released into the ground at SSFL occurred before 1961. More information is available in the fact sheet, The Use of Trichloroethylene at NASA’s SSFL Sites (PDF).

How is the community kept informed of investigation and cleanup activity at SSFL?

NASA recognizes the importance of communicating directly with the community regarding our properties, current and former operations at SSFL and the ongoing environmental cleanup. We are committed to fostering an open exchange of ideas and information associated with cleanup at the SSFL. We have been working hard to demonstrate this commitment by:

  • Personal interaction by the NASA staff with stakeholders
  • Preparation of fact sheets and other project-related materials
  • Holding small meetings and visits
  • Development of this Web site

Further information can be found on the Public Involvement page of this Web site.

How can I find out more about environmental issues at SSFL?

In addition to NASA’s Web site, other information on the investigation and cleanup activities taking place at SSFL can be found on the website resources page.

Whom may I contact for more information?

Contact Allen Elliot by email at allen.elliott@nasa.gov.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images are provided by NASA.

Adobe PDF icon Adobe PDF icon PDF documents on this website, designated with this Adobe PDF icon or "PDF", require software capable of rendering PDF files to be viewed. Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded free from Adobe Systems, Inc. using the "Get Adobe Reader" link.