EPA, NASA announces agreement to clean up ‘contamination’ at Wallops Flight Facility

ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an agreement Friday to address contamination at certain areas of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) Site. 

The consent order covers the formerly used defense site (FUDS) areas of the facility.

“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.” 

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.

The EPA provided public notice of the proposed consent order, an opportunity for a public meeting, and a 31-day public comment period, which closed on Dec. 28, 2020. Officials say that all public comments received were considered before finalizing the agreement.

NASA has operated the WFF since 1959 and has owned it since 1961. Before the agency took over, most of the facility was owned by the United States Navy.

It was reportedly used by the Navy for “anti-submarine operations; training for personnel; a test range to test, modify, and develop guided missiles, aircraft weapons, munitions, ordnance, and aviation fire control equipment,” according to a statement released by the EPA.

The contamination found has been linked to the activities that happened before NASA obtained the site, all of which, fall under the FUDS program.

Formal environmental investigations began in 1988 and were set up to assess the site conditions and identify areas of concern that may pose potential threats to health or the environment through the release of hazardous materials. 

According to NASA, the contamination is from waste handling operations in the past and activities that led to soil and groundwater contamination.

NASA’s website says it plans to “continue site investigations and propose to EPA remedial alternative(s), as appropriate, to address soil, sediment, surface water, and/or groundwater contaminants where an unacceptable risk has been determined. Additional details can be found in the Fiscal Years 2020 – 2021 Site Management Plan.”

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.

Read more on the cleanup here.

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