NASA discusses environmental concerns after rocket mishap

WAVY/Liz Palka

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (WAVY) — NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility held a public information meeting Monday night to discuss environmental and safety concerns after the recent Antares rocket explosion.

An unmanned rocket on its way to the International Space Station exploded seconds after launch from Wallops Island, October 28. NASA’s Associate Chief of Communications for Wallops Flight Facility, Jeremy Eggers, said data collection and testing hasn’t stopped since the mishap, and it won’t stop any time soon.

Special coverage: Wallops Island Rocket Explosion

Accomack County residents and all community members were invited to Monday’s information session at Wallops Visitor Center. Attendees had varying reasons for wanting to know the environmental impact of the explosion: one attendee was a local farmer, another person’s house had damage to it after the explosion.

TJ Meyer, the associate division chief for the medical and environmental division, said crews have tested for contamination both inside and outside the flight facility, and all dangerous chemicals have been contained to the launch pad area.

The most affected area is the impact crater, which is where the rocket exploded.

“We’ve already begun pumping the crater water out,” Meyer said. “We’ve seen a large reduction, about a 90 percent reduction, since we began seven weeks ago.”

One attendee was Bill Paige, president of the Eagle’s Sound Estates Homeowner’s Association, located in Atlantic, Virginia. He said a lot of environmental concern was expressed to him soon after the explosion.

“I would like to see some hard numbers. I know they’re collecting the numbers, the data,” Paige said.

Meyer said sampling data will be available in an environmental report that should be finalized by January. He said that report will be given to the Environmental Protection Agency as well as Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“They’re progressing, they’re doing the research,” said Amy Eckard, who lives in Temperanceville. “And I’d like to see the rocket launches go forward.”

Many at the meeting had questions about safety and future launches. NASA Test Director Sarah Daughherty said they believe the explosion is proof the safety process is working. Daugherty pointed out that no one was injured, plus most lethal debris fell within the hazard area.

However, NASA is still collecting data related to the explosion.

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