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December 31, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, December 31, 2004

Editorial Editorial (December 31, 2004)

Navy has obligation at Moffett Field

It is time for the U.S. Navy to do the right thing and clean up the mess it left behind at Moffett Field when it moved out in 1994.

The Navy's lingering toxic legacy is preventing the timely opening of SpaceWorld Hangar One, a museum that could draw a million or more visitors to Mountain View and the surrounding area every year. The historic hangar, built in the 1930s to house the dirigible U.S.S. Macon, has become a major source of pollution on the 2,200-acre base due to the flaking of lead-based paint from its 200-foot walls.

The Navy has addressed the outside-paint problem that contributed to the toxic pollution at the drainage pond known as Site 25, but has stubbornly refused to take responsibility to clean up and repaint the inside, which has stymied plans to move ahead with the museum. Site 25 covers 250 acres and is polluted with PCBs, DDT and lead from the flaking paint.

In addition, the Navy has been dragging its feet on clearing out the TCE pollution discovered under the 450-unit Orion Park housing complex that is home to both civilians and military personnel.

The extent of the Navy's obligations have been detailed in reporter Jon Wiener's two-part series about Moffett in the Voice that began last week and concludes today, starting on Page 1.

The Navy has had plenty of time to address the pollution problems at Moffett, declared a Superfund site, since turning the base over to NASA in 1994. If nothing else, the Navy could take another look at the document its officials signed, saying the Navy is retaining "complete responsibility" to clean up any pollution on the base, even if the Navy did not cause it.

Unfortunately, the Navy is trying to justify its position on Hangar One by citing a technicality in the law which says tenants like the Navy do not have to refurbish the interior of buildings when they leave, just the exterior. Others believe, and we agree, that since the hangar cannot be truly sealed off from the outside elements, it is the Navy's job to restore it, inside and out.

When it left Moffett in 1994, the Navy promised a complete cleanup of the base, which is one of the largest single tracts of land left in the Mountain View area. It is a jewel that offers great opportunity to the community, both for NASA and the vision of developing the SpaceWorld museum and possibly other enterprises. The Navy should end its bickering with the EPA, NASA and local agencies and agree to leave Moffett as it found it, with no pollution problems.

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