The city has announced that over 500 acres of land will be transferred from the Navy to the city on June 4, 2013. It will be the first – and largest – of a four-phase schedule of land transfers to the city. One of the areas that won’t be transferred this year is located at the main entryway into the future Town Center currently being designed.
Driving into the “East Gate” on West Atlantic Avenue to Ferry Point Road at the Seaplane Lagoon takes you through part of the future Town Center – and through a major environmental cleanup area called Operating Unit (OU) 2B.
Plans for a vibrant mixed-use Town Center to kick off redevelopment are now in the design stage, but 33 acres on the south side of West Atlantic Avenue won’t be transferred to the city until 2019. That’s when contaminated groundwater is expected to be cleaned up to commercial standards, allowing the Navy to turn over the land.
The overhaul of aircraft and ship engines in this area led to major contamination of groundwater with trichloroethane and vinyl chloride, as well as pockets of soil contamination. After testing various cleanup methods on the contaminated groundwater area – called a plume – the Navy and regulatory agencies have decided to rely mainly on bioremediation – natural bacteria – to degrade the contamination.
Soil hot spots will be removed, except under buildings. Future developers will be responsible for soil under buildings once they are demolished.
One of the groundwater hot spots close to the Seaplane Lagoon was successfully treated last year with a heat and vapor extraction system. Some of the other hot spots are impossible to treat with electrical heating because of underground power lines nearby.
The Navy has found bioremediation to be the most practical method to finish the job. Work details will be finalized later this year. Bioremediation can involve injecting new bacteria, but here it will likely mean injecting oxygen to spur the growth of existing bacteria. It’s the carbon atoms in the chemical contaminants that are attractive to bacteria, allowing them to naturally disassemble a chemical compound.
Someday, decades from now, the danger from vapors entering buildings will be low enough to permit ground floor residential use. Current restrictions imposed under the Navy’s cleanup plan will prohibit ground floor residential, but will allow residential use above the first floor, provided an approved vapor barrier and venting system is installed under any new construction. First floors will be allowed to have commercial uses once the city receives the land in 2019. Groundwater monitoring wells around the cleanup area will remain usable and accessible for regular monitoring for at least 20 years.
The cleanup area north of West Atlantic – 13 acres called Site 3 – will be turned over to the city next year following removal of several contaminated soil hot spots containing lead and other contaminants. Some of the contaminated soil areas are under building slabs on Site 3 and will be the responsibility of a future developer. All of the buildings in the East Gate cleanup area called Operating Unit (OU) 2B – 46 acres – are expected to be demolished rather than reused.
Site 3 north of West Atlantic was also heavily contaminated with jet fuel around an area where underground fuel storage tanks were once located. The former storage tank area is west of the jet monument and is still dotted with white pipe stubs once connected to a maze of cleanup pipes. The jet fuel cleanup was completed two years ago under the Navy’s Petroleum Program using a vapor extraction system. Removal of underground tanks and fuel lines was completed in 1999.