Impact Area Groundwater Study Program

The supply of fresh water found beneath the earth's surface

An underground water source

A body of groundwater that contains contaminants in excess of amounts allowed by law; the plume is defined by multiple samples from multiple monitoring wells

The training location where artillery and mortar targets were placed and fired at (Camp Edwards has a 5,000 acre impact area)

Installation Restoration Program - The U.S. Department of Defense program used at U.S. military bases to identify, investigate, and clean up contamination resulting from past operations; an IRP is located at Otis Air National Guard Base on the Massachusetts Military Reservation

Impact Area Review Team

parts per billion - A measure of concentration of contaminants; in water, it is equivalent to micrograms per liter; in soil, it is equivalent to micrograms per kilogram

Semi-volatile organic compound - Any compound containing carbon that partially vaporizes when exposed to air

Contaminant Of Concern, Chemical Of Concern

Fact Sheets

River River Drops of rain on a leaf

Groundwater Study Program at the Massachusetts Military Reservation

Fact Sheet 2001-02

Groundwater Study Program
The goal of the Groundwater Study Program is to assess and clean up the impacts of certain types of historic training activities conducted at the Camp Edwards' Impact Area and training ranges. These areas lie directly over the Sagamore Lens, the most productive part of the Cape Cod Aquifer. The National Guard Bureau is required by EPA to conduct the project and is overseen by both the EPA and MassDEP.

For nearly 90 years, military, law enforcement and contractor activities have been conducted in the training ranges and Impact Area. Activities included:

  • Small arms firing at several ranges involving the use of small caliber munitions
  • Artillery firing and mortar firing into the Impact Area from gun and mortar positions
  • Burning of excess propellant bags at firing ranges and gun and mortar locations
  • Demolition training with explosives at demolition ranges
  • Detonation and/or abandonment of unexploded ordnance
  • Training activities with various other munitions including pyrotechnic devices, rockets, grenades and mines
  • Packing, testing, development and disposal of weapons by Department of Defense contractors

Administrative Orders
During the 1980s, much attention was given to environmental issues both nationwide and on Cape Cod. Groundwater contamination was first discovered flowing off the southern portion of MMR. The groundwater plumes emanated from areas of previous activity, mainly associated with those conducted at the former Otis Air Force Base (now Otis Air National Guard Base). The discovery of significant off-base contamination led to increased community interest in the existing environmental cleanup program at MMR, now the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment's Installation Restoration Program (IRP). As interest and activity grew in the IRP, the citizens and local community organizations began to look at other activities taking place at MMR and voiced concern about the effect of historic and current training in the northern 15,000 acres of MMR. This growing awareness of possible groundwater contamination led the EPA to issue the first of four Administrative Orders in 1997.

In February of 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the first Administrative Order concerning Camp Edwards. The Impact Area Groundwater Study Program was established to respond to this order. Administrative Order 1 (AO1) was issued to the National Guard Bureau (NGB) and it required the NGB to investigate the nature and extent of contamination at and emanating from the training ranges and Impact Area on Camp Edwards. AO1 also required that Groundwater Study Program activities be conducted with adequate public involvement, including coordinating work with the citizen advisory committee established by the EPA, the IART.

The second Administrative Order (AO2) was issued in April of 1997 to the National Guard Bureau and the Massachusetts National Guard. It required that certain training activities (artillery and mortar firing) cease pending the completion of environmental investigations at the training ranges and Impact Area.

In January of 2000, EPA issued Administrative Order No. 3 (AO3), which required the National Guard Bureau and the Massachusetts National Guard to conduct rapid response actions, feasibility studies and remedial actions to address contamination in certain areas at the training ranges and Impact Area. It required the NGB to undertake a feasibility study to address unexploded ordnance (UXO) and munitions, which have been disposed of or fired at the training ranges and Impact Area. It also required the NGB, upon approval from EPA, to implement remedial measures relating to UXO and munitions.

Administrative Order No. 4 (AO4) was issued on January 4, 2001 under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to the National Guard Bureau. This order requires that munitions found subsurface or in burial pits be properly stored and disposed of in a Contained Detonation Chamber (CDC), or by other means which prevent the release of explosives, metals and other contaminants into the environment. As of June 2001, 1703 items have been destroyed using the CDC with additional items awaiting disposal.

Status of Investigations
To date, more than 170 monitoring wells have been installed throughout the 15,000-acre training ranges and Impact Area as part of the program. As a result of the investigation, several sites/areas of Camp Edwards are being more closely examined to assess the nature and extent of contamination from past military activities. The following major sites are under investigation:

  • Demolition Area 1
  • Southeast Corner of the Ranges
  • Central Impact Area
  • Gun and Mortar Firing Positions
  • Chemical Spill-19

See the map for the location of these sites.

It has been determined that for each major site, a feasibility study must be prepared to evaluate potential alternatives for conducting groundwater and soil cleanup. A feasibility study evaluates technologies and alternatives to be used for the containment, treatment and or removal of contamination from a site. In addition, the Groundwater Study Program is conducting an investigation and a feasibility study to address potential environmental impacts from unexploded ordnance throughout Camp Edwards.

What follows is a summary and update on the investigations at these sites, as well as an update on other surveys and investigations being conducted on Camp Edwards.

Demolition Area 1
Demolition (Demo) Area 1, a former training area used primarily for demolition training and open burning/open detonation of explosives since the mid 1970's, is located south of the Impact Area and north of Pocasset-Forestdale Road. The area is a topographic depression, or kettle hole, that covers approximately one acre at its base and is 45 feet below the surrounding grade. Types of explosives and munitions either used for training purposes and/or disposed of at this location included C4, TNT, dynamite, shape charges, cratering charges, bangalore torpedoes, claymore mines and detonating cord.

Soil and groundwater investigations have been conducted at Demolition Area 1 to identify the nature and extent of contamination at the site. Investigations began in June of 1997 and continue to date. For groundwater, the Contaminants of Concern (COCs) are the explosive compounds - RDX, TNT, HMX, 2A-DNT, 4A-DNT, 2,4-DNT, and perchlorate.

RDX and perchlorate have migrated the farthest in the groundwater. Plumes of these compounds as currently defined extend about 5,500 feet west of Demo Area 1 and are about 400 feet wide and 100 feet deep in the aquifer. The maximum measured groundwater contamination found to date is 370 parts per billion (ppb) for RDX and 300 ppb for perchlorate. The lifetime health advisory for RDX in drinking water is 2 ppb. There is currently no federal or state drinking water standard for perchlorate, but the EPA has calculated that a safe exposure level in drinking water for perchlorate is in the range of 4–18 ppb. A detailed evaluation of six remedial technologies for these constituents is currently under discussion with the regulatory agencies.

The 12 contaminants of concern for soil are under review by the regulatory agencies. They are primarily explosives and propellants, but also include several other compounds such as metals, semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), and dioxin. Once approved by the agencies, the selected COCs will form the basis for evaluating the cleanup alternatives for the soil contamination.

Southeast Corner of the Ranges
Explosives have been detected in groundwater and soil southeast of the Impact Area and north of Snake Pond. This area lies at the top of the groundwater mound of the Sagamore Lens of Cape Cod's sole source aquifer, and groundwater flows out radially from this area. This area contains three former defense contractor test ranges (the "J" Ranges) and one Massachusetts Army National Guard range (the "L" Range). The U.S. Army - from the 1930s to the 1950s - extensively used this entire area for training. Existing documentation on defense contractor activities at the J Ranges suggests that bulk explosives were disposed of to the ground surface as well as below ground into holding tanks. Open burn/open detonation disposal of munitions also occurred in numerous locations throughout the J Ranges. In addition, buried caches totaling approximately 1700 mortar rounds have been exhumed from locations since 1998. Also various test firings and research and development activities by numerous contractors occurred in this area. The L Range was utilized for training with high explosives during the 1940s and from the 1970s to the 1980s.

What appears to be five distinct areas of groundwater contamination have been detected between Snake Pond and the Southeast Corner of the Ranges. Additional areas of groundwater contamination have been detected further north in the J range area. The explosives detected in these areas will most likely migrate northwest towards the Central Impact Area. Perchlorate has also been detected at 6 locations in the southeast corner of the range. The National Guard Bureau is continuing to investigate the extent of soil and groundwater contamination in this area.

Central Impact Area
Detections of explosives at various depths and locations in the aquifer track back to, or originate from, the Central Impact Area where mortar and artillery rounds were fired for many years. To date, an area of groundwater containing primarily RDX and HMX, has been delineated as extending as far as 11,000 feet northwest from its probable source. The groundwater contamination underlies an area of approximately 621 acres with approximately 880 million to 1.3 billion gallons of water having been affected above the 2 ppb health advisory for RDX. The main source for the explosives in groundwater appears to be an area along Turpentine Road and Tank Alley, which coincides with the location of the targets for the Central Impact Area. The source likely covers about 440 acres of land within the Central Impact Area.

Gun and Mortar Firing Positions
Camp Edwards contains approximately 36 current and former locations from which artillery and mortar rounds were fired. EPA requested that NGB conduct detailed evaluations of these positions based on detections in soil of elevated levels of the propellant and explosive compound 2,4-DNT, in addition to several metals, SVOCs and pesticides. The IAGWSP is evaluating contamination at these positions and will begin developing remedial alternatives for cleanup in the near future.

Chemical Spill-19 (CS-19)
The CS-19 site is a small area in the west-central region of the Impact Area. The area was used for the burial and burning of ordnance. The highest concentration of RDX detected in groundwater at this location was 20 ppb in the central area of CS-19. Elevated levels of explosives, metals and SVOCs have also been found in soils at this location. Groundwater contamination in this area, which is currently known to extend 2,500 feet west and is underlain by contamination originating further upgradient in the Central Impact Area, is currently being addressed by the Air Force under the Installation Restoration Program (IRP) through a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study.

Rapid Response Actions
Under Administrative Order No. 3, a series of rapid response actions (RRAs) were required to be implemented in order to protect the groundwater at Camp Edwards. The administrative order identified several rapid response action areas to be addressed. The first round of rapid response actions has been completed. The areas included contaminated soils at the:

  • KD range firing points and target areas
  • Gun position 7
  • Armored Personnel Carrier
  • J-3 Wetland
  • Study Area 2 of the Impact Area

These areas are located within the training ranges and Impact Area and have been investigated as part of the ongoing IAGWSP. The results of these investigations have identified explosives, metals, propellants, and pesticides in soil and sediment. Several of the areas had concentrations of contaminants detected above Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) Reportable Concentration Soil-1 (RCS-1) levels. The RCS-1 levels are concentrations that, when exceeded, require notification of MassDEP and may require further investigation and remediation of contamination.

A soil sampling program was conducted to determine the extent of soil within five rapid response areas that exceeded the proposed soil cleanup goals. Results of the sampling program identified approximately 810 cubic yards of contaminated soil, which exceeded the RRA soil cleanup goals.

The RRA addressed the following requirements:

  • Elimination of current and potential sources of contaminants to the aquifer from soils and sediment in the areas
  • Development and implementation of a monitoring plan to assess compliance with the cleanup goals for source control measures
  • Excavation, treatment and or disposal of contaminated sediments, soils, debris and other materials generated during the RRA
  • Restoration of areas disturbed by the removal actions, particularly vegetation and habitat

A second round of Rapid Response Actions to address contamination at Mortar Target 9 and the former H Range is currently underway.

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