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Naval Surface Warfare Center - White Oak

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Montgomery and Prince George Counties

EPA ID# MD0170023444

4th, 5th, 8th Congressional District

Last Update: February 2014

Other Names

Federal Research Center at White Oak

Current Site Status

On November 9, 2007 the EPA signed a letter terminating the Section 7003 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Administrative Order to the Navy concerning corrective action at NSWC White Oak. The Navy must still perform all the requirements included in the Records of Decision and perform long-term monitoring at various sites.

Site Description

The former Naval Surface Warfare Center - White Oak (NSWCWO) facility is located on 710 acres in Silver Spring, Maryland. The easternmost portion of the property is located in Prince Georges County, with the rest located in Montgomery County. The facility, located 5 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., was originally established in 1946 as the Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL), with a mission to carry out research in guns and explosives. Throughout the years the mission was expanded to include research involving torpedoes, mines, and projectiles. In September 1974, NOL combined with the Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, Virginia and was renamed as the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division in 1988. After that time the facility functioned as the principal Navy research, development, test, and evaluation center for surface warfare weapon systems, ordnance technology, and strategic systems. A few of the industrial and ordnance operations conducted were metal plating, degreasing and solvent cleaning, painting and paint stripping, sandblasting, printing, pest control, boiler operations, carpentry, and loading and demilitarization of ordnance. Hazardous waste generated from these operations and processes included: caustic wastewater, waste solvents, heavy metals, waste oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), and residues from energetics (nitroaromatics). Historically, hazardous materials and hazardous wastes often were deposited on site in landfills, leach fields or sanitary sewers.

In September 1995, NSWCWO was selected for closure under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) IV list. The Navy transferred 662 acres to GSA on October 18, 1997 and the remaining 48 acres to the Army on February 2, 1998. The property that the U.S. Army acquired will be used for atmospheric profiling and provide a physical buffer zone between the U.S. Army activities and GSA property. The GSA will coordinate the reuse of the remaining property by other government agencies or private entities. The GSA portion is now renamed the Federal Research Center at White Oak.

On June 2, 1998, EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) to the U.S. Navy pursuant to Section 7003 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requiring corrective action. The requirements of the UAO are currently being addressed by the Navy through completion of RI activities and the signing of RODs for each site. On November 9, 2007 the EPA signed a letter terminating the Section 7003 RCRA Administrative Order. The Navy must still perform all the requirements included in the Records of Decision and perform long-term monitoring at various sites.

Site Responsibility
This site is being addressed through federal actions.
NPL Listing History
Not on the NPL. BRAC Date: 09/95

Threats and Contaminants

Elevated levels of various Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), metals, PCBs, radioactive impacted areas, and explosives have been detected at the facility. Slightly elevated concentrations of explosives and petroleum products have been detected in soil, sediment, and surface water on the Army property that was previously part of NSWCWO. Trichloroethylene (TCE) and PCBs have been detected in surface water and/or sediments.

Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.

Cleanup Progress

To effectively manage the cleanup activities and facilitate reuse, a BRAC Cleanup Team (BCT) has been established. The BCT is comprised of the U.S. Navy, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), and EPA Region III. The BCT has developed target schedules for investigations and cleanups of these sites. Environmental cleanups use combinations of: a) removal actions or interim measures, which are intended to quickly mitigate immediate threats to human health and the environment posed by contaminants, and b) remedial actions or corrective measures which provide for permanent cleanup of contamination that pose long term risks to human health and the environment. In addition, a complete basewide site screening (SS) investigation or site characterization for all known areas of concern at the facility was completed. The information gathered from the SS will enable GSA and the Army to plan accordingly for the property's reuse.

In 1996 a removal action was conducted at Sites 8, 9, and 11 to remove leaching wells and contaminated soils for off-site disposal. A Proposed Plan was presented to the public in January 2002 for No Further Action (NFA) for Sites 8 and 11 (soils) based on these earlier removals. NFA RODs were signed for July 2002 at these sites. A ROD for Site 9 was signed in September 2004.

Since the issuance of the UAO, the site characterization for the property (GSA parcel only) will be completed three years ahead of schedule. As an interim measure, a water treatment system has been installed at the residence where TCE and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) contamination was detected to eliminate VOCs from the well. Two removal actions (both involving groundwater treatments via air stripping, followed by surface discharge) located off site on the Army property to mitigate the release of contaminated groundwater to streams located on a residential property, are operating.

A Final Remedial Investigation (RI) report for Operable Unit 1 (OU-1) has been submitted. OU-1 consists of groundwater and surface water bodies in the area between Westfarm Branch on the west and east of Floral Drive Stream; it is also bounded by the facility's boundary to the north and Paint Branch to the south. A Final Feasibility Study (FS) for OU-1 was submitted in May 2003.

In 1999, removal actions were conducted at Site 33 and Site 28. Additional soil excavation was undertaken at Site 28 in March 2002. PCB contaminated soil and sediment was removed from Site 47 during January 2002. A No Further Action (NFA) ROD was signed for Sites 28 and 47 in May 2003.

For Site 11 groundwater, RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) and the Corrective Measures Study (CMS) work has been completed. The RFI investigation shows that there are no unacceptable risks to construction workers from the contaminants in the groundwater. This information was provided to GSA in order for GSA to proceed with their construction planning. Additional wells were installed at Site 11 during 2001 to define the vertical extent of the contaminants. A Proposed Plan to treat the groundwater at Site 11 was presented to the public in May 2003 and a ROD was signed for Site 11 Groundwater in April 2004. A portion of the remedy for groundwater at Site 11 was started in December 2004.

Operable Unit 2, consisting of Site 1 and Site 2 was investigated during 1999 and a ROD was signed in May 2001. The Remedial Action, capping the landfill, was completed in December 2001 and a Long-Term Monitoring Plan for OU 2 was developed and approved in early 2002. PCB and metals contaminated soils were removed from Site 3 in late 2000 and the former landfill was covered with a soil cap. A NFA ROD for Site 3 was signed in March 2005. A removal action was completed at Site 4 in September 1999. Approximately 16,000 cubic yards of soil was excavated and disposed off-site. Onsite borrow materials were used to backfill the site which helped reduced the cost for work at this site. Additional sampling of the soils at Site 4 was completed in early 2003. A Proposed Plan to treat the remaining soil contaminants and contaminated groundwater at Site 4 was presented to the public in June 2003. Based on comments received at the public meeting and on a change in Navy policy, the remedy was changed and a revised ROD for Site 4 was signed in September 2005. The remedy for Site 4 started in November 2006. The soil vapor extraction system at Site 4 was started in August 2007 and the Phase 1 sodium lactate injections started in July 2007 and were completed in November 2007. Phase 2 of the injections was implemented in late 2008. Phase 3 of the injections started in August 2009. Approximately 2,000 tons of soil contaminated with explosives was removed from Site 7 in November 2002. A Proposed Plan to treat contaminated groundwater and to have NFA for the soils at Site 7 was presented to the public in June 2003. A ROD for Site 7 was signed in September 2004 and groundwater injections of sodium lactate were started in 2005. Additional lactate injections occurred in August 2007.

The Proposed Plan for Sites 5 and 13 was presented in September 2003 and a ROD was signed in September 2004. The remedial design was approved in December 2004 and remedial action (zero-valent iron injection) for Site 13 started in January 2005 (Site 5 was NFA) and the the initial phase of injections was completed in May 2005. Additional injections are planned for late 2008. The Proposed Plan for Site 9 was presented in April 2004 and the ROD signed in September 2004. A pilot test started in 2003 at the site had demonstrated that the remedy, biodegradation using sodium lactate, would work. A second injection of lactate was performed in mid-2005. Additional lactate injections occurred in August 2007. The Proposed Plan for Site 49 was presented in July 2004 and the ROD was signed in November 2004, selecting chemical oxidation as a remedy for VOC groundwater contamination. The remedial design for Site 49 was approved in July 2006 and the remedy started in July 2006. Twelve bedrock injection wells are being used to inject potassium permanganate to oxidize the chlorinated volatile compounds in the groundwater. The injections were completed in July 2007. The Proposed Plan for Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) 87 was presented to the public in May 2005 and a ROD was signed in October 2005. The remedial design was finalized in March 2006 and the remedy (lactate injection) for SWMU 87 started in March 2007 and was completed in August 2007.

Long-term monitoring of all the remedies is currently underway.


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