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May 2, 2003

Michael Mewhinney

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-3937 or 650/604-9000




NASA officials today announced they are taking immediate steps to remedy a potential health and environmental hazard recently discovered in Hangar One at Moffett Field. Hangar One was included in the transfer of Moffett Field from the Navy to NASA in 1994.

Late last summer, a preliminary sampling by NASA’s environmental staff indicated that Hangar One contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are a suspected carcinogen with other potential health impacts. NASA environmental and engineering staffs have been conducting more extensive tests since the discovery of the situation. Within the past few weeks, they have determined PCBs to be more pervasive than previously thought. 

“We are now aware that many of the building materials used to construct and maintain Hangar One prior to NASA stewardship contained PCBs,” said Sandy Olliges, chief of environmental services at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California’s Silicon Valley. “NASA has notified the Navy and has begun discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address this situation. While our storm drainage system is designed to trap sediments containing heavy metals and PCBs, NASA is committed to taking immediate and specific further action to remedy this condition.”

“NASA is currently evaluating a range of options to prevent additional release of PCBs from Hangar One,” Olliges further explained. Although NASA engineers are still studying the cost of the various options, estimates range from $10 million to $50 million.

One option is encapsulation of the PCBs with a protective sealant and monitoring the condition by both NASA and the EPA. This option is estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million.

A second option is to remove the hangar’s structural materials containing PCBs and replace them with new materials. This option is estimated to cost $30 million to $50 million. In addition to the high cost, NASA officials say that, due to the age of the hangar, its structural integrity could be adversely impacted.

A third option would be to demolish Hangar One. NASA would also be required to dispose safely of all hazardous materials contained in the structure. This option is estimated to cost from $25 million to $50 million.

Each option would require an environmental review by state and federal agencies and public hearings in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act. Hangar One is listed on the national register of historic buildings and is part of the Shenandoah Plaza National Historic District.

One additional action for NASA is to find a temporary alternative location for the Moffett Field Historical Society, the only current intended tenant in Hangar One. The Historical Society previously operated the Moffett Historical Museum inside the hangar until last spring.

Constructed in 1933 as the central component of the historic U.S. Naval Air Station, Sunnyvale, Hangar One comprises eight acres of floor space and is a highly visible Bay Area landmark. Constructed at a cost of $2.5 million, it was originally built to house the U.S.S. Macon naval airship. The Navy operated and maintained the hangar until its transfer to NASA in 1994.

For a gallery of publication size images of Hangar 1, both current and historic pictures go to:

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