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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC

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In early 2014, EPA completed a review of the documents submitted by NRL and selected the Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs) and Areas of Concern (AOCs) that needed further action. The EPA expects a meeting with NRL in 2015 to discuss the schedule that will be implemented to address the need of additional characterization of contaminants in soil, sediments, and groundwater.

Cleanup Status

Environmental information is being gathered to confirm the status of the environmental indicators and the need for further investigation.

Cleanup Background

NRL reports that there is no known historic or current association between the NRL Facility and the Bellevue residential development.

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) agreed to participate in the EPA Region III’s Facility Lead Corrective Action program on August 19, 2003.

Corrective action investigations at the Facility primarily have been conducted by the NRL Facility Lead Corrective Action (FLCA) Program. Additional investigations have been conducted by the Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP).

In April 2007, NRL submitted a summary of their evaluation of 62 solid waste management units (SWMU) and 67 areas of concern (AOC) along with four (4) investigation reports. Of the 67 AOCs, NRL indicated that the following six (6) AOCs were associated with the MMRP: Bomb Testing Butt, Original Explosion Pit, Fire Pit, Pistol Range, Relocated Explosion Pit, and Incinerator. Concurrently, NRL submitted an evaluation of the Environmental Indicator (EI) addressing Current Human Exposures Under Control which stated that, with the exception of the potential for vapor intrusion, all other human exposures are likely under control. In August 2007, NRL submitted an evaluation of whether Contaminant Migration in Groundwater is under control. The evaluation determined additional investigations should be completed.

In late April 2008, NRL submitted a Facility Assessment Workplan. The Workplan addressed the investigation of hydrologic conditions throughout the Facility, fill along the Facility’s western border, and soil and other materials at twelve (12) Facility locations.

In early 2009, NRL submitted to EPA a Facility Assessment Report addressing the results of the investigations. In late 2009, following consult with EPA, NRL initiated investigation of the potential for vapor intrusion.

In 2010, EPA designated the District of Columbia Department of the Environment (DDOE) as the EPA Project Manager. In early 2011, DDOE provided EPA with an electronic copy of the September 2010 Site Inspection Report addressing five (5) MMRP Sites. Of the six (6) initial MMRP AOCs, an inspection of the incinerator was determined not to be necessary. In November of 2011, Project Management lead was returned to EPA.

In early 2012, NRL transmitted to EPA a description of the corrective action evaluation status, an update to the environmental indicators, a hard copy of the MMRP report, documents associated with evaluation of radioactive materials formerly used in research at the Facility, and a response to EPA’s comments on the Facility Assessment Report. These documents are under review by EPA.

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Site Description

Interactive Map of Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC


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The NRL Facility was established in 1923 by the Department of the Navy. The Facility is the key research facility operated by the Department of the Navy Office of Naval Research to address science and technology responsibilities. The Facility now comprises 131 acres and consists of 87 numbered buildings and structures. Most of the buildings are used for research. Manufacturing is not conducted on site. A portion of the property formerly was owned and operated as an Annex to the Naval Gun Factory. The Annex was used to store materials/munitions associated with the Washington Navy Yard.

The Facility is located on approximately 131 acres on the eastern bank of the Potomac River, in Southwest Washington, D.C, between Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Facility to the south, and Bolling Air Force Base and the Belleview residential development to the north. A portion of the Facility was ceded to the adjacent Blue Plains Waste Water Treatment Facility in 1947. Portions of a former landfill at the southwest tip of Bolling Air Force Base reportedly where shared with NRL.

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Contaminants at this Facility

 Investigations at the NRL Facility have been conducted by the NRL and by the MMRP.  Investigations conducted by the NRL identified the following contaminants:

  • Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in concrete and PCBs in soil
  • Metals, semivolatile organic constituents (commonly referred to as "SVOCs")
  • Volatile organic constituents (commonly referred to as "VOCs") in groundwater, soil and air.

NRL conducted an evaluation of risk associated with contaminants at locations not associated with the MMRP.  NRL determined there is no current unacceptable exposure associated with identified contaminants at those locations.

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Institutional and Engineering Controls at this Facility

The need for institutional controls has yet to be determined.

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Land Reuse Information at this Facility

The Facility continues use as a primary research center.

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Site Responsibility at this Facility

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action activities at this facility have been conducted under the direction of EPA Region 3

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