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Congressional District # 16


EPA ID# IL3210020803
Last Updated: May, 2015

Site Description

The Savanna Army Depot Activity (SVDA) Site is a 13,062-acre installation, located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, in Carroll and Jo Daviess counties, approximately seven miles north of Savanna, Illinois. The property was purchased by the U.S. Army in 1917 for use as a proof and test facility for artillery weapons and ammunition. Operations at the installation expanded to include the storing of ordnance and the loading and renovating of shells and bombs. The mission of the installation changed to that of a depot facility in 1921. The facility has handled, processed, and stored munitions, explosives, and industrial chemicals since operations began.  Renovation and loading of artillery shells and bombs began in the 1930's and occurred intermittently from then until the termination of the facility's mission in 1995.

Several areas of SVDA have been used for the demolition and burning of obsolete ordnance. Other areas have been used for waste disposal purposes (e.g., landfills).  Approximately 650 people live within three miles of the site.  The Site, located adjacent to the Upper Mississippi Valley National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, has had at least one observed year-round nesting pair, and a large wintering population, of bald eagles.

Site Responsibility

The U.S. Army/Department of Defense (DoD) is responsible for the SVDA Site.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) provide oversight, review and approval of the investigation and cleanup work that the Army performs at the site according to the requirements of the Federal Facility Agreement among the three parties.

Threats and Contaminants

Multiple media (soils, groundwater, surface water and sediment) have been found to be contaminated at various areas across the facility.  Soils are contaminated with metals, pesticides, explosives, lead-based paint chips, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Groundwater is contaminated with various pesticides, explosives, solvents, and petroleum-related contaminants.  Sediments and surface water are contaminated with various explosives, PAHs, and metals.  Multiple areas throughout the facility have been found to contain Munitions and Explosives of Concern/Unexploded Ordnance (MEC/UXO).  These areas include the Old Burning Ground (OBG), Open Burn/Open Detonation (OB/OD) area, the 75 mm/155 mm High Explosive (HE) Range Fans, the Grenade Burial Area and the Sites 15 and 33 disposal areas.  In 2009 an area previously considered to be un-impacted, the 90-mm Casing Test Area, was included and targeted for investigation.

Potential health risks include contact with contaminated surface water, soils, or sediments and drinking contaminated groundwater. Bald eagles and other ecological receptors may also be affected by site contamination.  Some of the MEC/UXO areas may pose potential acute (explosive) risks.

Cleanup Progress

In September 1989, a three-party federal facility agreement (FFA) was signed by the Department of the Army (DA or the Army), IEPA, and U.S. EPA.  The Army, as the lead agency, is conducting the investigation and cleanup of the facility under the oversight of IEPA and U.S. EPA.  Seventy-three areas of potential concern were identified across the facility in the 1992 facility-wide Remedial Investigation (RI).  Of these, 41 required additional investigation.

In September 1995 the facility was included in the Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure (Base Realignment and Closure or BRAC) List.  The intent for the SVDA Site has been, and continues to be, the transfer of the property to other entities, including the Local Reuse Authority (LRA) to allow for productive reuse.  During subsequent reviews for the base closure process, approximately 200 additional areas of potential concern were identified for further evaluation prior to transferring facility property.  A facility reuse plan was developed for SVDA, which specifies the Army's intention to transfer the property to the Local Reuse Authority (LRA), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), and the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

The areas of concern across the facility are in various stages of investigation with significant environmental progress having taken place in numerous areas, including the following:

Sites 1, 21 & 22/TNT Washout Facility - In March 1992, a Record of Decision (ROD) was signed, specifying a remedy to clean up the explosives- contaminated soils and sediments at these sites.  The cleanup, completed in December 1993, included the onsite incineration of approximately 67,805 tons of explosives-contaminated soils and required the treatment of approximately 10,000,000 gallons of contaminated surface water.  A remedy to address the explosives-contaminated groundwater has not yet been selected.

Site 67/Fire Training Area (FTA) - In May 1995, an action memorandum was signed, specifying a non-time critical removal to address contaminated soils at this site.  The removal was completed in May 1997 and required onsite incineration of approximately 26,000 tons of solvent and petroleum-contaminated soils.  Additionally, during the time period that the excavation exposed the groundwater table, efforts were made to remove a floating oil layer.

Sites 13 & 14/Open Burning Grounds (OBG) - Between August 1995 and January 1996, a demonstration project was conducted to evaluate the feasibility and cost effectiveness of sifting ordnance-related debris, including unexploded ordnance, from soils.  This project included the excavation of approximately seven acres of the site to remove visible debris above the water table.  The debris was then separated from the soils and further separated and categorized. Separation of the debris recovered 1,578 live ordnance items, ranging from small arms (1164 total items) to 155mm projectiles (two items).  Other items encountered included mortar rounds, projectiles, rifle grenades, rockets, hand grenades, land mines, and fuzes.

The excavation recovered approximately 620 tons of debris and approximately 19,300 cubic yards of soil.  The soils were later determined to be significantly contaminated. A non-time critical removal was initiated in July 1999 and completed in September 1999 to treat and dispose of the soils generated from the demonstration project.  This action removed 15,500 tons of contaminated solid waste and 450 tons of hazardous waste from the bottomland area.  These wastes were disposed in a permitted offsite landfill. Ongoing activities include a comprehensive ecological risk assessment which is currently under regulatory review.  Additionally, an investigation to more adequately assess the threats from ordnance and potential chemical weapons disposal is currently underway. Once these efforts are completed, a feasibility study (FS) and a Record of Decision (ROD) will be developed to select the final remedy for this site.

Site 89/Pesticide Disposal Area - As a result of the environmental baseline survey (EBS), a pesticide burial site was identified in the northwestern part of the facility.  During the 1950's, approximately 800 tons of di-nitro-ortho-cresol (DNOC) were buried in a trench and covered with soil northwest of the ammunition storage area.  The pesticide burial trench was found, and the local groundwater was determined to have been impacted by DNOC contamination.  A time-critical removal action was implemented at the site to remove the pesticide material and appropriately dispose of it in an offsite permitted landfill.  The removal began in July 2002, and excavation of the material was completed in October 2002.  A report documenting these activities has been completed.

Sites 76AD (APE Dock Area), 44 (Nitric Acid Storage Area) and 25 (CF Plant Melt and Pour Facility Sump) - The Army completed a removal action at the Site in the fall of 2003.  The purpose of the action was to remove soils contaminated with solvents.  The Army also completed a removal action at Site 44 to remove volatile and semivolatile organic-contaminated soils.  Major excavation activities were completed in 2003, with some additional excavation in 2004.  Finally, the Army completed an action at Site 25 to remove explosive residuals and contaminated soils.  Major excavation activities at Site 44 were completed in 2003, with some additional excavation in 2004.  The Final Removal Action Competion Report was approved in 2006.

Sites 15 and 33 Removal Action - Sites 15 and 33 are located in the Lower Post industrial area.  Various types of debris, including UXO debris, were dumped at these sites in two areas at Site 15 and in 11 areas at Site 33.  The debris areas contained elevated levels of lead to which the Army has responded with a non-time critical removal action.  The Army began the removal action in summer 2003. The removal action was completed during the early part of 2004, and a final report submitted in mid-2006.

Sites 155 and 186 (CF Plant Buildings 729 and 707) - Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) reports for non-time critical removal action were completed in spring 2008, with the removal actions completed in fall 2008.


Multiple remedial investigation activities are either in process or close to completion at SVDA. The most significant of these are:

(1) Lower Post RI - The Army originally submitted the Lower Post RI Report for regulatory review in 2002 and received comments on the document in early 2003. Issues relating to the adequacy of the Lower Post RI have been resolved and the final report completed in the fall of 2004. Supplemental investigations in the lower post area, including the CL/CN and CF Plant Areas, were completed in 2005, with the follow on reports either completed or in draft final form as of the fall of 2006. Ultimately, remedial and/or removal actions will be implemented as decision documents (RODs and Action Memoranda) are developed for those areas where cleanups are determined to be necessary. A Final Feasibility Study for the Lower Post was reviewed and approved by the regulators, and issued in November 2009.

(2) Other Lower Post Reports - Area-specific reports on additional investigations in the Lower Post include the Final Cl/CN Plant RI (April 2007), Final CF Plant Area RI (August 2007), Supplemental Plant Area RI (May 2007), and Plant Area No Further Action Decision Document (May 2007). In addition to these documents, numerous site-specific investigations have been completed, for which Final RIs have been approved or for which draft final RIs are currently under investigation. The Army and its contractors have completed or are currently (2013) in the process of completing with feasibiity studies, proposed plans and RODs, which are anticipated to fall into three categories: those recommending no further action; institutional controls; and site-specific active remedies.

(3) Upper Post RI - The contaminant investigations of the Upper Post RI address sites located on property which is scheduled to be transferred to the U.S. FWS. The RI was reviewed and approved by the regulators and the final document issued in April 2009.

(4) The Army completed a Phase I Ordinance and Explosives (OE) investigation during the summer of 2003. Based on the results of this investigation, which evaluated the SVDA site for a variety of munitions and explosives of concern (MEC) (previously described as ordnance and explosives/unexploded ordance [OE/UXO]). In the fall of 2004 the Army began a follow-on Phase II investigation to characterize, with a high degree of confidence, the residual MEC risk at the site and facilitate future land use decisions. Field work was completed in the fall of 2006.

Subsequent to the Phase I and II investigations, the Army initiated multiple MEC detailed followup investigations of multiple areas. These investigations included geophysical followed by intrusive investigations of: a) the 155 mm HE Proof Range, Grenade Burial Area, A-Area Demolition Pits, Graze Impact Range Fa, Primm's Pond, River Road, Zone F, Zones L1, L2 and L3, Upper Function Test Area and the Old Burning Ground. As of 2013, the Army has completed: expanded characterizations of the Graze Impact Range Fan, Upper Function Test Area and the surface clearance of Site 83; and site characterization at the 155 mm HE Proof Range, Zone Q/Site 17 Grenade Burial Area and A-Area Demolition Pits. A final RI for the OB/OD Area (Site 50) was approved in 2013, with completion of the FS currently scheduled for 2014.

(5) Decontamination of Explosives-Contaminated Buildings and Well Abandonment - Because of the SVDA site's BRAC status, the Army contracted for the explosives decontamination (decon) of multiple buildings located on parcels scheduled to be transferred to the Local Reuse Authority. The decon method used is thermal heating. This activity was be overseen by the regulators to the extent of ascertaining that the decon process does not result in contaminant releases to the environment. In addition to the building decon, the Army's contractor will abandon groundwater monitoring wells which are no longer needed, subject to regulatory approval. Building decon was completed in fall 2008. Groundwater monitoring well abandonment is ongoing.

(6) Remedial Investigation of Explosives-Contaminated Buildings - The purpose of an RI for exposives-contaminated buildings was to determine whether releases to the environment have occurred from those buildings. Field work was performed in 2010, and the RI reviewed and approved by the regulators, with the final document completed in November 2010.

Current cleanup activities:

 The status of remedy selection/remedy implementation for the 226 Superfund areas/sites Sites and the 12 MMRP (military munitions response program) sites is documented in the Army's BRAC Installation Action Plan, which is updated annually.  The following remedies pursuant to operable unit (OU) RODs have been selected:

OU1 - Site 1, TNT Washout Lagoons (March 1992, No Further Action following contaminated soil removal); a ROD to address explosives-contaminated groundwater beneath the lagoons is under review (November 2014); 

OU3 - Site 111, Outdoor Washout Facility (April 2010, soil flushing);  soil flushing was initiated in 201;

OU5 - Site 192, Mansaganese Ore Storage Mounds (April 2010, contaminated soil removal);  contaminated soil was removed in 201 and 2011;

OU6 - Site 44, Nitric Acid Storage Area (January 2010, No Action);

OU7 - 22 Sites (October 2010, No Further Action);

OU8 - 33 Lower Post Sites (October 2012, No Action or Land Use Controls); the land use control plan is in under review by the regulators (November 2014);

OU9 - 14 Sites (June 2012, No Further Action);

OU10 - 10 Sites (September 2013, Excavation and off-site disposal [4 sites], No further action [6 sites]);  excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated soil is programmed for fiscal year 2015;

OU23 - Site 32, National Guard Pistol Range (June 2014, No further action);

OU26 - Site 224, Cosmoline Grease Dump (June 2014, No further action);

OU27 - Sites 16 and 195, SAA Deactivation Furnace and Wildlife Area Sludge Application Area (June 2014, No further action).

 Other remediation efforts that have taken place across the facility include:

Site 16/Deactivation Furnace APE 1236 - A cleanup at this site was conducted between September 1995 and January 1996 under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) closure authorities. This cleanup removed approximately 7,100 cubic yards of soils, contaminated with heavy metals, primarily lead.

Igloo Storage Areas - The igloos were inspected and closed under RCRA closure plans.

Site 42/Monazite Sand Storage Tanks - Storage tanks which had historically stored monazite sand were investigated under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety (IDNS) authorities.  The investigation of the areas, surrounding the tanks, indicated that residual, radioactive contamination remained, and a cleanup was conducted.  The cleanup was completed in September 2000 and resulted in the excavation and offsite disposal of approximately 26,000 cubic feet of thorium-contaminated soils.

Site 75/Army Reserve Motor Pool - A small housekeeping action was conducted at Site 75 in October 1999 and involved the excavation and offsite disposal of 102 tons of lead-contaminated soils and concrete.

Site 61/Open Rubble Dump - A housekeeping action at Site 62 removed surface construction debris and asphalt and disposed in an offsite landfill in an attempt to expedite potential transfer of the surrounding lands.


Base Closure and Reuse Efforts

Progress of the standard Superfund cleanup process at the SVDA Site has been delayed due to the shift in focus brought about by the realignment and closure (BRAC) land transfer goals.  BRAC, with its emphasis onexpediting reuse of the facility, generally focuses on the lesser contaminated areas which have, in may cases, not been previously investigated.  To date, BRAC efforts have included failed attempts to transfer a 150-acre parcel, known as the prison parcel, to the Illinois Department of Corrections for use as a medium security prison in 1998 and an area, known as the YSI site, approximately 40 acres, for a youth adjudication facility.  However, some reuse has already been initiated. A finding of suitability to lease (FOSL) was developed in December 1998 allowing for the leasing of 28 buildings for various uses and all railroad lines/tracks within the parcel, intended to be transferred to the Local Reuse Authority (LRA).  Another FOSL (#2) was developed for approximately 180 additional buildings on the LRA parcel in December 1999.  Additionally, FOSL #3, addressing 266 additional buildings, was completed in 2001. In combination these FOSLs allow leasing of all the buildings that are located on the property, intended for transfer to the LRA.

In September 2003 the Army successfully negotiated the transfer of approximately 3,000 acres of the SVDA site in the upper post area to the U.S. FWS. U.S. FWS will manage this acreage as part of the Upper Mississippi Valley Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Additional acreage in the upper post area was transferred to U.S. FWS in 2004, with an ultimate total addition to the Refuge of approximately 9,000 acres.

The Army had developed a workplan to investigate most of the upland areas, identified by the Archive Search Report (ASR) with a potential to contain MEC/UXO.  The Army's utilized this information to evaluate the potential for non-time critical removals in areas confirmed to contain MEC/UXO.  Proceeding under their removal authorities, the Army initiated field work late in 1999, which continued through most of 2000.  Preliminary results identified 14 MEC/UXO areas and various OE waste or debris sites in many of the areas investigated.

In an effort to reach an agreement on the scope and methods utilized to characterize the extent of MEC/UXO contamination, the Army, U.S. EPA, and IEPA jointly announced in August 2000 the formation of a SMART (Strategic Management, Analysis, Requirements, and Technology) Team.  The SMART Team represents an effort to bring together decision makers and their staffs from each of the stakeholders (LRA, U.S. FWS, and the local community), with the intent of reaching an agreement on a satisfactory approach to MEC/UXO characterization.  The SMART Team initially met on a quarterly basis.  As agreements were developed, and as more aggressive  MEC investigation approaches acceptable to all parties began, the SMART Team agreed to meet less frequently, at least until the investigations have been completed and a comprehensive set of data are available to be evaluated. 

As a result of the preliminary findings of the MEC/UXO investigations, the Army has prohibited public access to areas on the facility where MEC/UXO are known or suspected to be present.  As a result of comprehensive reviews conducted by the SMART Team, the total area where MEC/UXO are known or suspected was reduced and modified.  These efforts allowed the Army to open up access to some of the backwater areas of the Mississippi River, located within the facility in May 2002.  The access restrictions elsewhere on the facility will remain in place for the foreseeable future or until information is gathered which clearly identifies areas of concern.

Currently (2015) active investigation continues at the Old Burning Ground (OBG) and OB/OD Areas, .  These areas, which are located in the Mississippi River floodplain in the northwest portion of the site, were used for the disposal and burning of a wide variety of MEC at various times during the operational history of SVDA.  A comprehensive geophysical MEC investigation has been completed and a detailed intrusive investigation to characterize the types of items found there, and evaluate the status of those items (i.e., scrap, live, fired, inert, etc.) is underway.  In addition, numerous other areas where munitions were used, disposed or suspected are being investigated under the U.S. Army's Military Munitions Response Protocol (MMRP).

In 2011, a crosswalk between CERCLIS Operable Units and the Army specific site designations per AEDB was created.  Remediation was completed at Site 192, a groundwater cleanup remedy was implemented at Site 111 and No Further Action (NFA)was selected as a remedy for Site 44.  A Record of Decision was for NFA at 14 sites and for remedy selection (NFA or institutional controls) at another 33 sites.

Progress made at the site in 2014 and 2015 has included:

Community Involvement

SVDA has a Restoration Advisory Board composed of citizens interested in the progress of cleanup at the site.  The RAB was formed in 1996 and currently meets approximately six times per year.  The RAB is interested in all aspects of the SVDA cleanup, including cleanup for MEC.  The SVDA RAB has also expressed strong interest in the impact of the plans for reuse of the SVDA property on the cleanup of the Site.

Congressional Interest

Substantial local interest in the future and future development of SVDA has attracted the interest of the local Congressional delegation.  Much of this interest stems from the desire of the local communities to see the redevelopment of the SVDA property proceed. 

Property Reuse

Management of over 9,000 acres of the SVDA property has been transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the property as part of the Upper Mississippi Valley National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.  Three thousand of those acres have been transferred to the FWS, with the remaining six thousand acres actively managed by the FWS for public benefit through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Army.  Ultimately, the goal is to transfer title of all 9,000 acres, which has been designated as the Lost Mound Unit of the Refuge.

Significant portions of the industrial area have been leased to the Local Reuse Authority (LRA).  Overall, the industrial area will eventually be transferred to the LRA, which will market the property in pursuit of economic development of the local community(ies).

The Army and the LRA continue to work toward the goal of completing the transfer of the industrial property of the Lower Post for the beneficial use of the community.  This process has been assisted by the determination of several areas as uncontaminated.  The process will be further assisted by the expeditious placement of effective land use controls on other areas that provide opportunities for industrial use.

Army has submitted for review, and U.S. EPA concurred with, FOSTs for Depot Old Access Road, Army Depot Road, LRA Parcel 3 and LRA Parcel 17A.  Based upon U.S. EPA's review of the FOST for Parcel 14, the issue of whether the Army will select a CERCLA remedy for that portion of Parcel 14 upon which munitions debris was found is under discussion among the FFA parties.  The issue emplacement of institutional controls to address the acute hazards posed by the potential existence of MEC on the site by way of a ROD remains. 


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
thomas barounis (barounis.thomas@epa.gov)
(312) 353-5577

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
janet pope
(312) 353-0628




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