Jump to main content.

NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility

Current Site Information

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Accomac County
90 miles north of Norfolk

EPA ID# VA8800010763

1st Congressional District

Last Update: February 2014

Other Names


Current Site Status

The EPA is currently working with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) by providing oversight of the following environmental investigations and cleanup actions at NASA Wallops Flight Facility:

Site 5: Paint Stain Area and Site 12: Former Wind Tunnel Area -
The EPA and VDEQ reviewed the Draft Feasibility Study for Site 5: Paint Stain Area and Site 12: Former Wind Tunnel Area which proposed remedial alternatives for cleaning up soil contaminated with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PAHs (polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons). The FS report was finalized as approval by EPA and VDEQ in September 2009. NASA developed a PRAP (Proposed Remedial Action Plan) which was reviewed by EPA and the VDEQ. The PRAP provided a summary notifying the public that NASA intended to perform a cleanup at this site and outlined possible clean up options. NASA did not receive any comments during the public comment period.

NASA submitted the Record of Decision to the regulators in March 2010. The Record of Decision (ROD) documented the clean up options that were considered during the FS and weighed these clean up alternatives against screening criteria developed by EPA. The ROD explained why NASA and EPA selected a particular remedy based on criteria such as technical effectiveness in the short and the long term, cost effectiveness, feedback from the community and the State, reduction in toxicity, volume, or mobility, whether the remedy meets State and Federal regulations, and protectiveness of the remedy. EPA and the VDEQ reviewed and provided comments on the Draft Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD was signed by EPA and VDEQ and finalized in December 2011.

The remedy selected in the ROD was excavation and disposal of PAH contaminated soil in an approved landfill to protect human health and ecological receptors. Excavation of waste is complete and the site has been regraded and re-vegetated with native plant species.

Site 4: Island Debris Pile
The EPA and the VDEQ have completed their review of the Draft EE/CA (Engineering Evaluation/ Cost Estimate) for Site 4 Island Debris Pile. The EE/CA report recommended excavating and disposing of soil contaminated with PAHs (polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and metals that posed unacceptable risk to human health in an approved landfill. The EPA and VDEQ agreed with the overall recommendations and clean up approach proposed in this report.

The EE/CA was submitted for 30 day public review and comment from February to March of 2010. No comments were received from the public regarding the proposed time critical removal action. The Action Memo documenting the clean was approved by EPA and VDEQ and finalized in April 2010. NASA completed the removal action in April of 2011. EPA and VDE approved the Construction Completion Report in January 2012 and signed the No Further Action (NFA) Consensus statement in January 2012.

Fire Fighting Training Area (FFTA)
NASA used the Former Fire Fighting Area (FFTA) for weekly fire fighting training exercises from 1965 to 1986. Flammable materials were released onto the open top tank, a shallow pit or onto an airplane body and ignited. These exercises resulted in contamination of the groundwater.

NASA has proposed a remedy to address Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), and metal contamination at the Fire Fighting Training Area in groundwater which poses unacceptable risk to human health.

The remedy involves injecting Oxygen Release Compound (ORC), a mixture containing peroxide and magnesium, into the groundwater to make groundwater conditions favorable for microbes to break down the solvents and makes arsenic less soluble. This action would be followed by Institutional Controls and Monitoring. The Record of Decision was approved by EPA in December 2007.

NASA implemented a pilot study in December 2008 to determine if injections of oxygen release compound would cause the desired increase in Dissolved Oxygen (DO) that is needed to stimulate microbes which can break down the solvents and make arsenic less soluble.

NASA performed sampling after the injection which demonstrated that Dissolved Oxygen levels were increased in most of the groundwater wells. In January 2009 another sampling event was performed which demonstrated that oxygen levels were still high which appeared to suggest that oxygen consuming microbes were not present at the site. NASA has recommended that in light of this information it is no longer advisable to carry out a full scale injection of ORC.

During the pilot study groundwater samples were collected which indicated that some of the Contaminants of Concern (COC s) had reduced in concentration from what was reported in the Remedial Investigation (RI). During the one month sampling event the concentrations of benzene, cis-1,2-dichloroethene, and vinyl chloride were below their respective clean up goals. As free product was detected during the sampling NASA has proposed to install additional monitoring wells and conduct additional sampling. EPA and the VDEQ have agreed to this proposal.

NASA is monitoring this site to confirm that the concentrations of the contaminants have been reduced to below clean up goals. EPA and the VDEQ will evaluate the data once it is collected to determine the next step for the site.

Waste Oil Dump (WOD)
The WOD was reportedly used for the disposal of waste oil (and possibly solvents) from the 1940s through the 1950s. Field studies were performed by NASA and a human health risk assessment was performed. It was determined that the site posed unacceptable risk to human health for potential exposure to groundwater due to solvent and petroleum contamination.

NASA has proposed to use biostimulation using Oxygen Release Compounds to encourage the growth of microbes capable of breaking down the solvents and petroleum products. This action would be followed by Institutional Controls and Monitoring. The Record of Decision for this site was approved in April 2008.

NASA implemented a pilot study in December 2008 to determine if injections of Oxygen Release Compound would cause the desired increase in Dissolved Oxygen (DO) that is needed to stimulate microbes which can break down benzene and make arsenic less soluble.
NASA conducted sampling events after the injection of Oxygen Release Compound which demonstrated that while Dissolved Oxygen levels increased initially they also reduced too rapidly. Based on these results NASA concluded that it is likely that oxygen consuming microbes are present and thus ORC injections are suitable for this site.

NASA has recommended that an extended release form of Oxygen Release compound, ORC Advanced, be used at the site to provide microbes with sufficient oxygen to reduce contaminants. EPA and the VDEQ have approved the remedial action work plan. NASA began remediation activities the first week of December 2009. NASA will continue to monitor the groundwater in order to determine that clean up goals have been achieved.

Site Description

NASA Wallops Flight Facility is located in Accomack County, Virginia on the Atlantic Coast of the Delmarva Peninsula. It is located approximately 90 miles north of Norfolk, Virginia and is comprised of three separate land masses: Wallops Main Base, Wallops Mainland, and Wallops Island. Surrounding populations include the town of Chincoteague, located approximately five miles west of the facility has a year round population of approximately 3,000 residents, and supports a transient summer population of approximately 7,000. WFF has a population of approximately 1,500 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) employees, contractors and, US Naval personnel. Surrounding land uses are predominantly residential, agricultural and recreational.

Site History
Prior to NASA acquisition of the land the facility was known as the Chincoteague Naval Air Station which that was operated by the Navy. Historic record reviews and aerial photography has shown that historic Department of Defense (DOD) operations have contributed to contaminants at the NASA facility. NASA and EPA continue to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Baltimore District on the investigation of Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) that have been determined to be located at the facility from historical Department of Defense (DOD) operations.

During the period from 1945 to 1947 the site was known as the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station. It was a high speed aeronautical launch site where rockets were used to launch models of aircraft. From 1958 to 1974, the site was known as Wallops Station, and became involved with NASA and the Civilian Space Program. From 1975 to 1981 the site was the site was known as the Wallops Flight Center, while it was still a launch site for sub-orbital and orbital vehicles, it also began Earth studies of ocean processes and included the Wallops Research Airport, which conducted noise reduction studies of aircraft on runways. From 1982 to present the facility has been known as the Wallops Flight Center. Since its consolidation with the Goddard Space Flight Center, WFF has become a primary facility for NASA's research programs.

Site Responsibility

Cleanup of this site is the responsibility of the federal government.

NPL Listing History

To date this site has not been proposed for NPL listing; CERCLA response actions are addressed under the RCRA 7003 Agreement on Consent that was executed between EPA and NASA.

Threats and Contaminants

Based on sampling conducted during site investigations, soil and ground water contamination has been identified from historic site operations and disposal practices. Ground water has shown levels of various site associated contaminants that include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons and chromium and soils and surface water have had detections of VOCs and pesticides. Site investigations continue but at this site is appears that CERCLA related investigations have shown little offsite migration of contaminants.

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

Cleanup Progress

In February 2014 a Five Year Review was conducted to evaluate the remedies at the Former Fire Training Area (FFTA) and the Waste Oil Dump. The Report found the remedies are protective of human health and the environment but that NASA should sample the FFTA for chemicals associated with fire fighting foam.

As noted previously, NASA is currently working with EPA and VDEQ to implement cleanup actions at the Former Fire Training Area and the Waste Oil dump. An ecological risk assessment was completed in 2007 for the Photographic Tank Site (M-15). Based on the results of this evaluation the team determined that No further Action was required at this site to protect human health and the environment. The decision was documented in a decision statement signed by EPA, VDEQ, and NASA. EPA reviewed and submitted comments on the Draft SI for the Firing Range Comments in May 2008. NASA will coordinate with EPA and VDEQ to develop options for addressing lead contamination detected in soil on the firing range during the SI study. EPA, VDEQ, and NASA reviewed the data for the Scrapyard and determined that No Further Action was required at this area as the soil remaining at the site after clean ups had been performed showed no risk to human health and the environment. NASA has issued a draft No Action Record of Decision for the Scrapyard which has been reviewed by EPA and the VDEQ The Record of Decision was approved in February 2008.

NASA funded an Archive Search Report (ASR) from 2005-2008 to look at historic DOD operations at the facility. The ASR has been completed and several additional sites have been identified that will be added to the USACE Baltimore District's FUDS list. NASA decided to fund preliminary investigations at two other of the sites that were identified as part of the ASR. These two area, Gunboat Point and the and firing range and abutment were identified to be of concern because munitions were historically fired in both locations.

NASA posted signs at Gunboat point and the access areas of Gunboat Point to notify the public not to access the land due to potential munitions hazards. Similarly NASA conducted a geophysical investigation at the Visitors Center to address munitions concerns. NASA has funded and supplemental investigation on review historic NASA operations that may have contributed to contaminants from historic NASA operations that may not have been identified. The Gunboat point and Visitor's Center are currently being addressed by the FUDS (Formerly Used Defense Site) Military Munitions Program (MMRP) by the Baltimore U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS)
A FUDS is property that was under the jurisdiction, owned, leased, or otherwise possessed by the Department of Defense (DoD) at the time of actions leading to contamination by hazardous substances. The FUDS program is limited to those real properties that were transferred from DoD control prior to October 17, 1986. The DoD delegated the responsibility to carry out the FUDS Program to the United States Army Corps in the Defense Environmental Restoration Program Act (DERP). The Navy owned many acres of land prior to NASA's use of the site. The USACE has continued to work on several of the FUDS site of greatest concern at the NASA facility. An Industrial Waste Sanitary Landfill was investigated and a drum disposal area was addressed via a removal action to remove drums from the disposal area. In addition a Time Critical Removal Action was initiated to address mercury contaminants discovered in a trickling filter at an old waste water treatment facility located on the NASA property.

USACE submitted Remedial Investigation reports for the Old Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Construction Debris Landfill. The EPA and the VDEQ have reviewed and commented on the reports and are in the process of resolving the comments with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The USACE submitted a workplan for conducting a Site Investigation (SI) for seven FUDS properties formerly used by the Navy during the WW II era. The EPA and the VDEQ have reviewed these documents and submitted comments to USACE.



Site Contacts

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Superfund |EPA Home | EPA Superfund Homepage

Local Navigation

Jump to main content.