NASA Kennedy Space Center is a toxic hell

The Nitrogen Tetroxide Scrubber (above) at the Oxidizer Farm for Launch Pad 39A. Image courtesy Kennedy Space Center.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Rockets use all sorts of chemicals to fuel their flight. NASA has been using Cape Kennedy since the sixties to loft these wonders, and — at least back then — ecology and pollution weren’t top-of-mind considerations.

That’s too bad, because now that the Shuttle program has come to an end, we’re discovering that there’s more to the NASA legacy than national pride.

There’s toxic waste. Enough that it’ll take about a billion dollars to clean up.

Rosaly Santos-Ebaugh has a messy job on her hands. She’s KSC’s Remediation Program Manager, the person who heads up all cleanup efforts on the Cape. She describes the problem: “In the past, back in Apollo, the normal disposal of the solvent cleaning was down the drain … out the back door.”

Unfortunately, an awful lot went down the drain and has found its way as far as 90 feet deep into the soil under the various launch pads and production facilities at both Kennedy Space Center and the lesser-known Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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