Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The 650-acre Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) Complex site is located in Bremerton, Washington, along the Sinclair Inlet on Puget Sound, about 15 miles west of Seattle.

The Navy has owned and operated facilities at this location since 1891. The complex covers about 380 acres of land and an additional 270 acres of tidelands along 11,000 feet of shoreline.

The PSNS is responsible for overhaul, maintenance, modernization, repair, docking and decommissioning of ships and submarines, and technical and logistics support. These activities generate large amounts of hazardous waste that have impacted soil, groundwater and marine sediment with petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Where cleanups have been completed, operation and maintenance activities and monitoring are ongoing. Other upland and marine areas are still being investigated for cleanup, and source control actions are continuing.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The site is being addressed through federal and state actions.

The Navy prepared the site’s third Five-Year Review in 2012 and an addendum to that review in 2016. The fourth Five-Year Review was completed in 2017. Response actions at OU NSC, OU C, and OU D are considered protective of human health and the environment. OU A is protective in the short-term per the Navy and is not protective per EPA. The protectiveness of the remedies for OU B Marine and OU B Terrestrial were deferred until more information for these OUs is obtained. Exposure pathways that could result in health risks are being controlled.

In February 2017, a Supplemental Mercury Investigation Report was completed for OU B Marine. The report presents a synthesis of data regarding mercury concentrations, fluxes, and mercury-relevant site conditions and processes in Sinclair Inlet water column, sediment, and biota from 1989 through 2015. The findings of this synthesis will be used to support a Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) and potential future remedial action decisions related to mercury in sediments. The Navy undertook this data gathering and synthesis effort following a Navy evaluation that concluded that subsistence-level consumption of Sinclair Inlet marine species poses sufficient human health risk to justify consideration of additional remedial action for mercury contamination. The report recommends addressing mercury source control at BNC and provides information to justify consideration of additional remedial actions for mercury in sediment to reduce human health risk from mercury contamination.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

For cleanup, the site is divided into six project areas referred to as operable units, or OUs.

  • OU NSC addresses a 28-acre area of the site designated as the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center.
  • OU A, which includes Charleston Beach, addresses an area at the western boundary of the site.
  • OU B Marine addresses the marine sediment portion of the site. OU B Terrestrial addresses the upland area of the site.
  • OU C addressed petroleum contamination and cleanup overseen by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology MTCA).
  • OU D addresses 2.5 acres of land in the far eastern portion of OU B Terrestrial, which was cleaned up and transferred to the City of Bremerton for use as a park.

Washington Department of Ecology is the lead agency for oversight for all OUs, except Ecology and EPA are joint lead for OU B.

Cleanup Progress

The Navy developed a cleanup plan (called a “Record of Decision” or ROD) for each OU, except OU C, where a cleanup action plan was developed under state regulations.

In 1996, the Navy selected a remedy in a Record of Decision for OU NSC. The cleanup included upgrading and maintaining asphalt pavement and storm drain lines, cleaning sediment from storm drains, implementing institutional controls and developing excavation management plans. The Navy constructed the remedy between 1997 and 1999. The fourth Five-Year Review determined that the remedy implemented at OU NSC is currently protective of human health and the environment. For the remedy to be considered protective in the long term, the recommendations and follow-up actions listed in the fourth Five-Year Review must be addressed in a timely manner. Future protectiveness will continue to be assessed during and after implementation of these actions based on monitoring of concentrations of contaminants of concern, trend analyses, and completion of follow-up actions.

In 1997, the Navy selected a remedy in a Record of Decision for OU A, which includes Charleston Beach. The cleanup included installing and upgrading pavement in the upland area, upgrading the riprap barrier along Sinclair Inlet and enhancing habitat, implementation of institutional controls, monitoring groundwater, and developing excavation management plans and inspection plans. Construction of the remedy began in 1998. To offset for the adverse impacts of enlarging Pier D, the Navy conducted a mitigation action to increase the intertidal habitat along approximately 300 linear feet of shoreline at Charleston Beach. This mitigation work, which was beyond the requirements of the OU A ROD, was performed between December 2001 and February 2002. Subsequent to the action, erosion was observed to be occurring at the site and landfill debris became visible on the beach during the 2007 storm season.  An interim action was conducted in August 2008 that included a temporary erosion control measure and replacement of fish-mix material. The intent of this interim action was to stabilize the bluff and enhance the beach habitat while a long-term solution to control erosion and protect the marine habitat would be developed in accordance with the OU A ROD. The Navy has continued to replenish the fish-mix material at Charleston Beach, with the most recent replenishment occurring in 2015 and 2016, and a long-term remedy repair has not been implemented. In the 2016 addendum to the third Five-Year Review, OU A is determined to be short-term protective. The Navy indicated that a design for alternate shoreline geometry, which would provide longer term site stability and protectiveness, had been completed and is under consideration by the Navy. The final design has not been released by the Navy and proposed work has not occurred. In the fourth Five-Year Review, EPA disagreed with the Navy’s determination that the remedy at OU A is Short-Term Protective, and EPA’s protectiveness determination was reported to Congress as Not Protective (PDF).

In 2000, the Navy selected a remedy in a Record of Decision for OU B Marine and the sediment cleanup coincided with the Navy's planned navigational dredging project in Sinclair Inlet. The cleanup plan included dredging of contaminated sediments with disposal in a large underwater Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) pit, thick- and thin-layer capping, monitored natural recovery, and long-term monitoring requirements. In 2004, the Navy prepared an Explanation of Significant Differences, which identified changes in the boundaries of OU B Marine and in the sediment action levels for cleanup on the state-owned aquatic lands. Construction of the remedy took place between 2000 and 2004, and long-term monitoring is ongoing (most recent monitoring occurred in 2014). In 2017, a rationale and strategy is being developed for future monitoring of PCBs to assure the continued protectiveness of the CAD pit, confirm that sediment natural recovery is continuing, and evaluate whether PCB contaminant levels in tissues are decreasing. While the initial cleanup focused on PCBs, the second Five-Year Review (2007) for the site identified an issue for OU B Marine regarding mercury, documenting that there is not sufficient information to determine whether the remedial action taken at OU B Marine with respect to mercury in sediment is protective of ingestion of rockfish by subsistence fishers. In 2010, a Human Health Risk Evaluation was completed, which identified that consumption of fish and shellfish posed a risk to human health. In 2013, a Sinclair Inlet Marine Monitoring Sampling and Analysis Plan was developed to address data concerns regarding the concentration and speciation of mercury in sediments and the marine food web, and ultimately develop a cleanup level for mercury. Subsequent investigations have occurred [see next Section]. In the addendum to the third Five-Year Review (2016), the Navy deferred the protectiveness statement for OU B Marine, stating that once the Supplemental Mercury Investigation Report is finalized, a focused feasibility study will be conducted that specifically addresses mercury contamination in Sinclair Inlet, and presents alternatives for reducing human health risks associated with mercury. In 2017, the protectiveness determination for OU B Marine was deferred to the next Five-Year Review.

In 2004, the Navy selected a remedy in a Record of Decision for OU B Terrestrial. It included shoreline stabilization, paving and capping of upland soils, stormwater system restoration (cleaning, repairing, replacing), groundwater monitoring, and implementation of institutional controls. By the end of 2006, the Navy completed the shoreline stabilization and paving work as well as the assessment, repair and replacement work in the storm drain system. Ongoing inspection and maintenance continues, and the Navy is characterizing a northern VOC plume. In addition, the largest known ongoing source of filtered mercury from the site to Sinclair Inlet is from Site 2, located in the southern portion of the Outfall 15 drainage basin at the site. Whole water mercury concentrations in discharges associated with Outfall 15 are unknown and could potentially represent an important source of particulate-bound mercury to the sediment. In 2017, the protectiveness determination for OU B Terrestrial was deferred to the next Five-Year Review.

In 2005, the Navy selected a remedy in a Record of Decision for OU D. The cleanup included OU-wide capping, removal of contaminated sediments from the storm drain system, long-term groundwater monitoring, and implementation of institutional controls. The remedy implemented at OU D is currently protective of human health and the environment.

In 2007, Ecology approved a cleanup plan under the state petroleum program for OU C. It included no action with long-term groundwater monitoring requirements and institutional controls. The cleanup action at OU C, selected under the state MTCA regulation, remains protective of human health and the environment.

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Activity and Use Limitations

At this site, activity and use limitations that EPA calls institutional controls are in place. Institutional controls play an important role in site remedies because they reduce exposure to contamination by limiting land or resource use. They also guide human behavior. For instance, zoning restrictions prevent land uses – such as residential uses – that are not consistent with the level of cleanup.

For more background, see Institutional Controls.

The fourth Five-Year Review includes information summarizing the status of Institutional Controls. (PDF)

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