Cumberland Times-News

March 19, 2014

Navy planning cleanup of toxic waste at ABL

Work would reduce threat of contamination

Cumberland Times-News

— ROCKET CENTER, W.Va. — A plan to clean up toxic waste in soil from a variety of uses over the years at Allegany Ballistics Laboratory is out for public review and comment. Site 1, which is the subject of a Tuesday meeting, is one of several sites at the facility that has required action over the years to reduce the threat of contamination to groundwater and the North Branch of the Potomac River.

The remediation work is budgeted for fiscal 2014, said Tom Kreidel, public affairs officer for the Mid-Atlantic Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

“While we can’t give an exact estimate, due to the fact that the work hasn’t been contracted yet, the ... Site 1 Soil Feasibility Study estimated a present worth cost for the proposed remedy of $11,123,799, with an accuracy range of -30 percent to +50 percent,” Kreidel wrote in an email.

The Navy previously ran the lab and now contracts the work to ABL.

The Northern Riverside Waste Disposal Area has toxins in the soil, including volatile organic compounds, metals, explosives and dioxins, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The facility tests munitions and portions of munitions, including, over the years, rocket propellants. Much of the waste generated was disposed of at the site, according to an EPA report.

So far, federal officials, over years of testing, have concluded there are no risks to human health or nearby private water wells, although there is contamination at the site. Cleanup will take account of nearby residents.

A presentation and public meeting on the remediation plan will include managers from the EPA, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Kreidel said.

“The Navy keeps a transcript of the meeting. The meeting room is reserved for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and there should be approximately 15 minutes available after the presentation for questions and answers,” Kreidel said.

There could be some impact on ABL and local residents during the work. A date to begin the work isn’t set yet.

“While there are no residents living in the boundaries of the ABL facility, impact to the community from construction activities would be minimized through the implementation of the appropriate health and safety procedures. Short-term disruptions to daily ABL operations and the local community may be experienced from heavy equipment operation, such as increased traffic of construction trucks in and out of the site; dust generation from heavy equipment during regrading, excavation or backfill operations; and transportation of clean fill from an off-site source,” Kreidel said.

Any disturbance will be remedied by appropriate measures, including traffic diversion and efforts to suppress dust from the operation, he said.

The site has been looked at for a long time.

 “While there is no typical timeline for remedial investigations leading up to a remedial action, this process has been thoroughly evaluated due to the complex characteristics of the site. There has been steady evaluation and work on this project since 1992. There have been actions during this time, including debris removal and an interim removal action that will contribute to final remedy,” Kreidel said.

Actions already taken at the site by the Department of the Navy have reduced the possibility of hazard to humans, and further actions are designed to prevent future contamination of the river and groundwater, according to a report on the site prepared by the EPA.

Copies of the proposed cleanup plan are available at the Fort Ashby and South Cumberland libraries.

The meeting for public comment on the plan is set for 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the South Cumberland Library Meeting Room. Written comments and questions may be sent to Kreidel before May 9 at NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic, 9742 Maryland Ave., Norfolk, VA 23511.

Additional information can be found at reg3hwmd/npl/WV0170023691.htm.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at