Saturday, October 31, 2015


More about Santa Susana

In a previous post on this subject, written about a year ago, I commented about the different pollutants that need to be removed or cleaned up.  There are two types: radioactive and chemical.  Radioactive pollutants can be removed by waiting.  Radioactivity dies.  Radioactive elements have finite half-lives.  Of course some of them have very long half-lives, such as potassium and uranium.  They are present almost everywhere.  Radio-potassium is the main source of the earth's heat.  It will be around for a long time.

Chemical pollutants have no natural half-lives.  They can last forever and should be removed, if possible.  I recently attended an information meeting presented by the California State DTSC (Department of Toxic Substances Control) and the Boeing Corporation.  Regarding the chemical pollutants, one of the speakers stated that it probably isn't possible to remove it.  The primary pollutant is Tri Chlor Ethylene or TCE.  It's a cleaning liquid.  It has sunk into the soil to great depths and has gotten into the ground water.  Any water from a well near the Santa Susana Field Laboratory contains TCE.  As a means of protecting the public, the Boeing Corporation has built a plant that pumps contaminated ground water, filters out the TCE and pumps the cleansed water back into the ground.  Experiments are under way to see if other techniques are more effective than filtering.  For example, one could use chemistry to convert TCE into some other compound, perhaps something harmless or something easier to remove from the water.  There is also a proposal to use specially designed bacteria to metabolize the TCE into something else.

I am cheered and optimistic at the progress that has occurred already toward producing a "clean" area that can be used as a park or a wilderness area.
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