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Ordnance Sites


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


Ordnance consists of a wide variety of military munitions and weaponry including rifle rounds, shells, bombs, grenades, mines, explosives and special purpose explosive agents. Ordnance sites include a range of facilities which manufactured, assembled, disposed or stored military ordnance or associated components. Some of these facilities date back to pre-World War I, while others were operated for specialty purposes for only a few months or years. In many cases, the facilities are not identified with any special markings, signs or warnings. Some facilities were associated with specific military posts. Characteristic features may include increased security (high, barbed-wire fencing), bunker-style/mounded buildings, unusually remote or uncharacteristic industrial locations, and well-spaced small buildings.


Due to their specialty nature, ordnance facilities may include various chemicals used in the final stages of explosives manufacturing. The following chemical compounds are common raw materials, chemical intermediates or waste products encountered in the manufacturing of explosives:


On-site waste piles and burial pits were common treatment/disposal techniques prior to the promulgation and enforcement of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). Common waste products encountered at Superfund assessment and remediation projects include: buried spent ordnance, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and ordnance components, such as di- and tri-nitro compounds (commonly used in explosives), solvents (e.g., toluene, formaldehyde), and fuels (gasoline, diesel and aircraft fuels). These compounds may be encountered in contaminated soils, surface water, and/or groundwater. Additionally, contaminated buildings, asbestos-containing material, and the associated demolition debris may be encountered at abandoned or inactive sites. Decontamination and analytical testing of this material may be required prior to off-site landfill disposal.


It should be noted that UXO and the associated components may represent a serious fire, explosion and fragmentation hazard to assessment personnel. Explosive intermediate chemicals and waste products may represent a serious inhalation, ingestion or direct contact hazard. Ordnance facilities should be screened for UXO by specially training individuals using established military standard procedures. Visually identified UXO or associated components should be marked and left undisturbed until explosives experts can be mobilized.

Once the site has been cleared of UXO, a series of soil screening kits and techniques are available to detect tri-nitro toluene (TNT), the explosive compound RDX, and fuel contamination in soil. Waste piles and burial pits should be characterized by collecting several representative samples for laboratory analysis. Surface and subsurface soil sampling should be performed from the suspected contaminated areas outward to the suspected clean areas. The application of non-intrusive subsurface geophysics as opposed to conventional drilling and boring should be evaluated to detect underground burial pits, process lines and chemical storage tanks. Special precautions must be taken when utilizing intrusive investigation techniques (e.g., drilling, boring operations) due to the potential for buried explosive materials. Once the primary contaminated areas are established, grid or random sampling may be performed to confirm the extent of contamination.

On-site and local wells may be sampled if groundwater is an environmental concern. Installation of monitoring wells or other groundwater sampling techniques should be considered only if it is necessary to fill data gaps.


Heavy Metals Analysis:


Priority Pollutant Organic Analysis (volatiles, semivolatiles, pesticide/PCBs)

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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