By Carol Vaughn —
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the agency and NASA entered a consent order agreement to clean up areas of Wallops Flight Facility formerly used by the Department of Defense.
“This agreement shows that cleaning contaminated, formerly used defense sites is a top priority for both EPA and NASA,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidion in a Jan. 15 press release.
“The attention and focus that EPA has placed on the Superfund program is making a real difference in the lives of people living in communities near Superfund sites across the country,” he said.
NASA, with EPA oversight, will take certain actions to address contamination at the sites, according to the order.
Wallops Flight Facility is the first federal facility to be addressed under the Superfund alternative approach, in which the facility will not be listed on the National Priorities List, potentially saving time and resources, according to the release.
The same standards and processes are used under the alternative approach as for sites on the list, according to the EPA.
“If a party enters into a Superfund alternative approach agreement with EPA, there is no need for EPA to list the site on the NPL,” according to the release.
Virginia has 30 sites on the EPA’s National Priorities List, including military sites, landfills, and others. The list can be viewed at www.epa.gov/superfund/national-priorities-list-npl-sites-state#VA
Actions to be taken at Wallops include doing a feasibility study to determine the nature and extent of contamination and explore remedy options; proposing remedial action plans to give the public a chance to comment on options; deciding on one or more remedies; designing and implementing the remedies; and taking any removal or emergency actions needed to address “any imminent and substantial threat to human health or the environment should such a threat be identified during any part of the process,” according to the release. A public comment period for the consent order closed Dec. 28.
NASA has owned Wallops Flight Facility since 1961.
Before then, the Navy owned much of the property and conducted defense-related operations— including pilot training, aviation and ordnance testing — there from 1942 until the station was closed in 1959.
The Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) program addresses environmental contamination resulting from those activities.
“Since 1998, NASA has worked closely with the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency on environmental investigations and remediation work at multiple Wallops sites associated with U.S. Navy activities conducted prior to NASA taking ownership of the facility. In February 2015, NASA and the Department of the Army signed a Memorandum of Agreement in which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) agreed to fund the Wallops Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) Program, with NASA taking responsibility for implementing the program and conducting remedial environmental actions at its sites,” said Jeremy Eggers, associate chief of the WFF office of communications.
The consent order “affirms the effectiveness of Wallops’ decades-long work to conduct environmental remediation at its FUDS sites and formalizes a process of continued collaboration with the EPA,” Eggers said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began investigating and conducting remediation at the facility in 2000 under the FUDS program, continuing the process through 2016, according to the release.
The investigation identified areas of concern — including sites contaminated with hazardous chemicals, “including the volatile organic compounds perchloroethene, trichloroethene, 1,2-dichloroethene, benzene, and toluene; semi-volatile organic compounds naphthalene, benzo(a)pyrene, and dioxins; polychlorinated biphenyls; metals; total petroleum hydrocarbons; munitions and explosives and munition constituents (chemicals used in formulations as propellants, pyrotechnics and explosives in weapon systems, munitions and blasting agents),” the release said.
NASA and the EPA previously, in 2004, entered into a consent agreement about other areas of concern on the property resulting from NASA activities.
A site management plan for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 details actions to be accomplished by NASA at the Wallops facility under the FUDS program. Information about the restoration program and a link to the plan is at https://code200-external.gsfc.nasa.gov/250-WFF/program-areas-restoration-program