NASA reports that the pollution caused by Space Shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will cost the government $96 million and will take 30 years to properly clean up. NASA officially ended the Space Shuttle Program on July 21st as the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the final time at the Kennedy Space Center. It seems that the plumes of smoke resulting from the 135 shuttle launches caused toxic chemicals to seep into the sandy soil around the space center. In addition to the $96 million that will be spent at Kennedy, the Air Force announced they’ll be putting $50 million into cleaning up a similar mess at Cape Canaveral.

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In the past, back in Apollo, the normal disposal of the solvent cleaning was down the drain … out the back door,” Rosaly Santos-Ebaugh, Kennedy’s remediation program manager and the person responsible for leading the cleanup told USA Today. According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, there are roughly 2 square miles of chemically contaminated soil and groundwater around Kennedy Space Center. The most prevalent contaminant is a chlorinated solvent called trichloroethylene which can cause birth defects and cancer, and is found in the area at levels thousands of times higher than allowed under the Federal Drinking Water Standards.

Recently, NASA scientists discovered the harm the shuttle launches were doing to the surrounding environment and worked to clean up their act, but major pollution from older launches still remains. It is estimated that 88,000 pounds of trichloroethylene soaked directly into the ground from 1959 to 1968. Apparently, during those years, workers simply poured the toxic substance straight into the ground after launches thinking it would evaporate. Since 1989 $128 million has already been spent at Kennedy for environmental cleanups, but it seems there is a lot more to be done.

We can put a man on the moon, but we don’t have all the regulations in place so we can understand the effect of some of the chemicals that were disposed of,” NASA scientist Jackie Quinn told USA Today while explaining the process by which the pollution occurred. We’re with Quinn. With all of the intelligent people working on reaching far into our galaxy, why can’t we push a bit of that thought power into ensuring that getting to those heights wont irreparably harm the home we already have.

Via USA Today