Press Release

EPA and NASA Enter Agreement on Cleanup of NASA Wallops Flight Facility Site

By SpaceRef Editor
January 18, 2021
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a consent order today to address contamination at the Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) areas of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) Site, Accomack County, Virginia. Under the terms of the consent order, NASA will perform the following response actions with EPA oversight:

• Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study to determine the nature and extent of contamination at the site and explore possible remedies.

• Proposed Remedial Action Plans to give the public an opportunity to comment on remedial options preferred by EPA and NASA. 

• Records of Decision, which are the final selection of one or more remedies for the site.

• Remedial Designs/Remedial Actions, which includes the design and implementation of the remedies.

• Removal and Emergency Actions, if necessary, 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.

“This agreement shows that cleaning contaminated, formerly used defense sites is a top priority for both EPA and NASA,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio.  “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.” 

On Nov. 27, 2020, EPA provided public notice of the proposed Consent Order, an opportunity for a public meeting, and a 31-day public comment period, which closed Dec. 28, 2020.  All public comments received were considered before finalizing the agreement.

The WFF is located on Route 175, Wallops Island, Accomack County, Virginia. The

WFF consists of three land parcels: The Main Base Parcel, the Mainland Parcel and Wallops

Island. NASA has operated the WFF since 1959 and has owned it since 1961.

Prior to NASA’s ownership, much of WFF was owned by the United States Navy. It was used for anti-submarine operations, training for personnel and as a test range to test, modify and develop guided missiles, aircraft weapons, munitions, ordnance and aviation fire control equipment.

Contamination identified at the WFF that is known to be associated with activities that took place prior to NASA’s presence is addressed under the FUDS program. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is the lead agency for the FUDS program and conducted investigation and remediation activities at these FUDS areas of the site beginning in 2000 through 2016.

These investigations have identified several areas of concern at WFF that have been contaminated with hazardous contaminants 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).

Under the agreement, pursuant to a Federal Facility Superfund alternative approach, all aspects of the work to be performed by NASA are being funded by USACE and subject to EPA’s approval. Remedial Actions will be selected by EPA, in consultation with NASA and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. NASA will be responsible for ensuring that public participation requirements of the Superfund law and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan are met.

The Superfund alternative approach uses the same investigation and cleanup process and standards that are used for sites listed on the National Priorities List (“NPL”), and WFF is the first federal facility in the nation to be addressed under this approach.  The approach is an alternative to listing a site on the NPL; it is not an alternative Superfund process. The approach can save the time and resources associated with listing a site on the NPL. 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.

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SpaceRef staff editor.