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Allegany Ballistics Laboratory (US Navy) Site

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

West Virginia
Mineral County
2 miles South of
Cresaptown, Maryland

EPA ID# WV0170023691

2nd Congressional District

Last Update: January 2015

Other Names


Current Site Status

Several activities are planned or ongoing at the Northern Riverside Waste Disposal Area (Site 1) which includes the Active Burning Grounds, Former Disposal Pits and the Outside Active Burning Grounds.  Site 1 is adjacent to the North Branch Potomac River. A Record of Decision for Site 1 Soils was completed in September 2014.  The selected remedy consists of 1) excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated soil; 2) removal of surface debris in the OABG;  3) land use controls; and 4) long term management.  An interim removal to address the Former Disposal Pits was completed in 2013.  The soil contaminants of concern at Site 1 include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), metals, explosives and dioxins.  There is an existing pump and treat system to capture and treat contaminated groundwater at Site 1. This system has been in operation since 1998, and will be optimized upon completion of the soil remedial action.  

No Further Action (NFA) Records of Decision (RODs) for Site 3 and Site 10 (soils only) were signed in July 2007.  The Site 4B NFA ROD was signed in November 2007.  A No Action ROD for Site 2 was signed in 2008.

The Navy has been pumping and treating groundwater, contaminated with VOCs, at Site 10 since 1999.  This interim action was selected as the final action in a 2002 Record of Decision.

A ROD for the Inert Landfill (Site 5) groundwater, surface water and sediment was signed in 2006.  The construction of the selected remedy, a permeable reactive barrier (PRB), monitored natural attenuation and institutional controls, was completed in the summer of 2006.  The site is currently in the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) phase.   The landfill contents were handled under a separate ROD that selected capping the landfill. 

The Long-Term Monitoring (LTM) Plan for Sites 1, 5 and 10 is currently conducted every 9 months. The LTM Plan addresses the ecological concerns identified by the ecological risk assessment regarding the benthic macroinvertebrates in the North Branch Potomac River, which borders the north side of the site.  As noted in the Five Year Review, the monitoring program for Sites 1, 5 and 10 was evaluated and changes were made as necessary to reflect the years of data already collected.  Also, as part of the five year review process, the groundwater remedy at Site 1 is being optimized, and the ecological monitoring is undergoing improvements.

The fourth Five-Year Review was completed for Sites 1, 5 and 10 on September 2013.  Protectiveness was deferred for several operables units due to vapor intrusion concerns.  The Navy is currently working on a sampling plan to evaluate vapor intrusion site wide.

The Site 12 Remedial Investigation (RI) report was finalized in June 2008.  Contaminants of Potential Concern (COPCs) at Site 12 include metals, volatile and semi-volatile (VOC and SVOC) compounds.  The final Feasibility Study (FS) report was submitted in January 2010.  The report addresses both Sites 11 and 12.  Site 11 is adjacent to Site 12 and is also contaminated with VOCs at relatively low levels.  The 2012 Record of Decision for Sites 11 and 12 selected focused enhanced anaerobic biodegradation, MNA, and institutional controls.  The institutional controls are meant to restrict excavation in areas of groundwater contamination and restrict use of the groundwater until cleanup goals are achieved.  

Investigations in the Range Road Area (Site 13), located north of Site 3, defined an area of groundwater contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE) at concentrations exceeding the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 5 µg/L.  To date, no specific historic release has been identified for Site 13.  An additional investigation was performed in October 2007 using membrane interface probe (MIP) technology, to determine whether a source in the vadose zone exists.  Results of the MIP study revealed that VOC concentrations in vadose zone soils were relatively low and no significant source area was identified.  A vertical profiling of contamination in the alluvial aquifer using passive diffusion bag samplers was performed in early 2008 and identified no definitive vertical distribution of TCE.  A pilot study incorporating enhanced bioremediation using injection wells within the defined plume area was conducted at the site.  Monitoring data show decreased concentrations of TCE throughout the plume in the alluvial aquifer, suggesting that the groundwater is responding positively to the pilot study.

Site Description

ABL is a 1,628-acre facility in West Virginia, located in the flood plain of the North Branch Potomac River, along the West Virginia and Maryland border.  The land surrounding the site is primarily agricultural with some forestry.  The facility began operations in 1942, including research, development, and testing of solid propellants and motors for rockets, ammunition, and armaments for the Navy.  There are two operating plants at ABL.  Plant 1 is owned by the Navy and consists of 1,576 acres.  Since 1995, Alliant Tech Systems Inc. (ATK) has operated the plant under contract to the Navy.  The remaining 52 acres of ABL (Plant 2) are owned and operated by ATK.  Plant 2 is not included as part of EPA's National Priority List (NPL).  Many explosive, metals and solvent wastes have been generated at ABL.  Until 1978, the majority of these wastes were disposed of on-site. 

Due to waste disposal and handling practices at the facility, there are several source areas of concern.  Several areas within the Active Burning Ground were aggregated as Site 1 due to their proximity and similarity of hazardous substances.  Other contaminated areas include two former burning grounds (Sites 2 & 3), a spent photographic solution disposal area (Site 4B), the inert landfill (Site 5), a sensitivity test area/surface water impoundment (Site 6), a beryllium landfill (Site 7), an acid neutralization pit (Site 9), contaminated ground-water production well (Site 10), contaminated groundwater in production well "F" (Site 11) and adjacent contaminated soil (Site 12).  Contaminants in soil and groundwater include explosives, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), acids, bases, laboratory and industrial wastes, solvent and metal plating sludge, paints, and thinners.  Some contaminants had moved off-site and were detected in the North Branch Potomac River.  Five ABL water supply wells, which were found to contain VOCs, were taken out of service.  Recent testing of these wells, as well as numerous monitoring wells in the developed area, shows consistent VOC contamination in the groundwater.

Site Responsibility

The site is being addressed through Federal actions.

NPL Listing History
Proposed Date: 06/23/93
Final Date: 05/31/94

Threats and Contaminants

Response actions undertaken by the Navy have greatly reduced the potential threats and risks from several sites.  Contaminants found in the ground water and soil include explosives, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), acids, bases, perchlorate, laboratory and industrial wastes, bottom sludge from solvent recovery, metal plating pretreatment sludge, paints, and thinners.  The pump and treat system at Site 1 and Site 10, and the landfill cap and permeable reactive barrier at Site 5 have greatly reduced exposure to contaminants from the facility.  Additionally, several water supply wells on the facility had been shut down to reduce potential exposure to contaminated groundwater.

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

Cleanup Progress

In the past, the Navy had implemented remedial actions at four contaminated sites at the facility and investigated potential contamination at several additional sites. 

Active Burning Grounds, Former Disposal Pits, Outside Active Burning Grounds (Site 1):  The May 1997 ROD included a groundwater remedy that consists of treating the plume with a pump and treat system designed to contain the plume and target the DNAPL zone.  In general, long-term monitoring of the groundwater and the surface waters near Site 1 since 1999 have shown an improvement in these media.  A Remedial Investigation (RI) for the soils at Site 1 was finalized in 2006.  A Feasibility Study evaluation began in 2008.  A qualitative investigation of DNAPL presence in the unsaturated zone beneath the former disposal pits (FDPs) was performed in late 2009 - early 2010.  The evaluation was done using a membrane interface probe (MIP) and FLUTe liners; the study concluded that DNAPL was not present in the unsaturated zone of the FDPs and recommended that the remedial action taken for the active burning grounds should be sufficient to address the FDP soils.

Former Burning Grounds (Sites 2 and 3):  No Action RODs were signed for Sites 3 and 2 in 2007 and 2008, respectively, after previous investigations determined no significant risks to human health and the environment.

Spent Photographic Developing Solution Site (Site 4B):  A No Further Action ROD was issued in 2007 at Site 4B, following source removal and confirmatory sampling that showed no unacceptable risks to human health and the environment are present at the site.

Inert Landfill (Site 5):  In February 1997, the Navy and EPA signed a ROD, and a landfill cap was completed by November 1997.  Long-term monitoring at the site is ongoing.  Additional investigation of the groundwater at Site 5 helped define the extent of contamination and a proposed plan was issued in March 2005 to address groundwater with an innovative preferred alternative, consisting of passive treatment with a permeable reactive barrier and monitored natural attenuation.  Construction of this remedy was completed in 2006 and the site is currently being monitored per the remedy decision document. 

Former Beryllium Landfill (Site 7):  In September 2001, the Navy and EPA signed a ROD for No Further Action at this site after contaminated soil had been excavated and disposed.

Former TCE Still and Plant Production Wells (Site 10):  In June 1998, the Navy and EPA signed an Interim ROD, and three extraction wells were installed at the site.  The extraction wells were connected to the Site 1 treatment system and started operation in the May 1999.  An additional extraction well was put in operation in the Fall of 2000.  A Proposed Plan was issued for Site 10 groundwater in February 2002.  The Final ROD for Site 10 (Groundwater) was delayed due to institutional controls (ICs) issues, but was signed in 2005.

Soils at Site 10 and at the Spent Photographic Developing Solutions Disposal Site (Site 4B) were investigated in the Fall of 2000 and risk evaluations were developed.  The Final No Further Action ROD for Site 10 (Soil) was signed in July 2007.

Product Well "F" (Site 11):  Groundwater associated with a former production well is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  A RI was completed in January 2005.  The Feasibility Study report was issued in January 2010 and addresses both Sites 11 and 12.  The PRAP was issued in February 2011 with a proposed preferred remedial alternative that includes focused enhanced reductive dechlorination with monitored natural attenuation and institutional controls.  This proposed remedy was selected in a 2011 Record of Decision.

Building 167 SWMUs (formerly AOC N) (Site 12):  An area of soil contamination is located adjacent to Site 11.  An EE/CA and Non-Time Critical Removal Action were performed to address this soil contamination in 2005.  The RI for the Site 12 groundwater was completed in June 2008.  See comments above regarding Site 11.

Range Road Area (formerly SWMU 27A) (Site 13):  TCE concentrations exceeding the MCL of 5 ug/L exists in the alluvial aquifer of the site.  A pilot study utilizing enhanced bioremediation technology was initiated in 2008, where emulsified oil is being used as the substrate and injected into the groundwater plume, focusing on the area where the highest TCE concentrations are observed.  Currently, a remedial investigation is underway at the site.

Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs):  A number of areas of potential contamination have undergone evaluation to determine whether further investigation is warranted, including areas of the existing storm sewer system and associated oil-water separators.  Many of the SWMUs have been closed out after further evaluation.  Most recently, the investigation at SWMU 37W was completed and closed out.  Cleanup actions included removal of the sump and excavation of the surrounding soil (approximately 10 tons of soil).  Confirmatory soil samples revealed the soils do not pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment.   

A Background Soil Investigation Study was completed in 2002 to document background conditions.

A second Public Health Assessment (PHA) for ABL was completed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR’s) which concluded that due to measures taken by the Navy to prevent migration of contaminants offsite from ABL, there was no public health hazard.  However, the PHA did recommend additional sampling of privately owned wells on the north side of the North Branch Potomac River based on uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of the river as a barrier to contamination in the bedrock aquifer.  The ABL partnering team prepared a response to the ATSDR recommendation which demonstrated, based on historical data, that there is significant evidence that groundwater (and contaminant) migration under the river does not occur under natural flow conditions, nor does it occur due to the ABL groundwater extraction system, and therefore additional sampling of wells on the north side of the river was unnecessary.


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