Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:

NAVAL WEAPONS INDUSTRIAL RESERVE PLANT
BEDFORD, MA

Cleanup Activities

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Background

The Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant, Bedford Site (NWIRP) is located in eastern Massachusetts in the Town of Bedford, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. The property, which is in the southwest portion of Bedford, is approximately 14 miles northwest of downtown Boston. It is bounded by the Lawrence G. Hanscom Field (Hanscom Field) and Hanscom Air Force Base (HAFB) to the south; by Raytheon Electronic Systems Facility, a Patriot Integration Test Facility, wetlands, and residences to the west; by woods and wetlands to the north; and by woods, residences, and wetlands to the east.  NWIRP’s mission was to design, fabricate, and test prototype equipment for missile guidance and control systems.

NWIRP is divided into northern and southern sections that are separated by Hartwell Road, which provides the only paved ground access, aside from the Hanscom Field taxiways. The northern section (North Activity) is located on Hartwells Hill, and consists of the Components Laboratory and its auxiliary buildings, the Compact Test Range (formerly the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile Development (AMRAD) Building), the Facilities Storage Building, the Antenna Range Facility, a former incinerator, the Government Building, and the Vitro Tower. The auxiliary buildings associated with the Components Laboratory are the Air Conditioning Room (Cooling Tower), the Incinerator Building, and various storage buildings. The areas in between the buildings are mostly paved for parking, driveways, and walkways. Hartwells Hill drops off steeply to the north and east, and more gradually to the south and west.

The southern section (South Flight Test Area or SFTA), located adjacent to Hanscom Field immediately south of Hartwells Hill, consists of the Flight Test Facility (FTF), the Deluge Pump Station, a Guard House, a parking lot, a small storage building, and a concrete apron surrounding three quarters of the FTF with access to the taxiways and runways of Hanscom Field. The area is almost completely paved, except for the area near the Deluge Pump Station and the vacant area that the Old Hangar and associated buildings once occupied to the east of the FTF.

NWIRP was created in October of 1952 when construction of the Naval Industrial Reserve Aircraft Plant (NIRAP) began. Its mission was to provide the Raytheon Manufacturing Company of Waltham, Massachusetts with facilities for research and development of radar, missile guidance systems, and related equipment. By the mid-1950s, when the Components Laboratory was added and most of the construction was complete, NIRAP encompassed approximately 98,000 square feet of space with an additional 53,000 square feet comprised of guard houses and test shelters. The Old Hangar, formerly operated by Transonics, was in existence from 1941/42 until it was demolished in 1995. The Plating Laboratory, Hawk, Lark, and Van Duesen buildings were constructed in 1952, and the FTF was constructed in 1959.  Subsequently, the Navy built the Facilities Storage and Government Buildings near the Northern Activity boundary, and the Antenna Range and Transportation Buildings between them. Finally, the Navy built the air conditioning and incineration facilities, and the Compact Test Range.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

Site 1

 Site 1, the Old Incinerator Ash Disposal Area, was located at the north edge of the Activity near the Facility Storage Building. It was estimated that about three tons of classified documents and small quantities of waste paint were incinerated each year at this location. The potential constituents of concern (COCs) at this site were metals in soil and groundwater. The incineration of paint and film produced approximately 2 pounds of silver, 320 pounds of zinc, 570 pounds of lead, and 190 pounds of chromium over the 19 years of incineration at this site. Investigation concluded that Site 1 did not pose a threat to human health and the environment.

A no action Record of Decision (ROD) was signed in 2000.

Site 2

Site 2, the former Components Laboratory Fuel Tank located at the northeast corner of the Components Laboratory was identified during the initial assessment. This underground storage tank (UST), a 20,000-gallon, No. 6 fuel oil tank, supplied fuel for boilers from 1953 to 1982. In 1982, the UST was drained, cleaned, and abandoned in place due to a leak of approximately 200 gallons of fuel oil to the surrounding soil. An oil/water separator was installed during this time to collect oil and water, which had percolated through the soil as a result of the release. In 1989 the UST and approximately 50 to 75 cubic yards of soil were removed under provisions of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering (MADEQE) (now the MassDEP) Chapter 21E requirements.

A no action ROD was signed in 2000.

Site 3

The Navy’s Phase I Remedial Investigation (RI) reported the presence of chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in groundwater at the northern portion of NWIRP Bedford near the Facility Storage Building and the Components Laboratory.  The area where the chlorinated VOCs were detected was designated as Site 3 during the planning stages for the Phase II RI. Since the Phase II RI, Site 3 has been defined as consisting of a subsurface source area, which at the time was believed to contain dense, non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) in saturated subsurface soil, and an associated dissolved-phase plume of chlorinated VOCs in groundwater. The well-delineated, dissolved-phase plume begins at the source area near the Components Laboratory loading docks, and primarily migrates to the northwest into an off property wetland area.

There has been one documented release of 1,1,1-trichloroethane in the loading dock area, but there have been no other documented releases identified to explain the source of the other chlorinated VOCs in the subsurface. Potential sources of releases, which contributed to the Site 3 plume include: the Components Laboratory, the Facility Storage Building print shop, a storm drain connected to the Facility Storage Building, the Antenna Range, the Transportation Building, the AMRAD building, the hazardous waste storage area, and the Old Incinerator. Trichloroethene (TCE) and 1,1,1-trichloroethane were both reportedly used in the Components Laboratory, and could have been released to the ground in this area. Waste liquids, including chlorinated solvents, from the Facility Storage Building print shop could have been disposed directly on the ground or to an upgradient septic system and then released to the groundwater.

The storm drain system could have provided a route of migration for chlorinated solvents from any of the buildings connected to this drainage system. Solvents could have been discharged directly to the ground at the Old Incinerator. Solvents also could have been released from the Components Laboratory through a drainage tile field located beneath the northeast corner of the building. Floor drains and, prior to 1980, the sink drains in the AMRAD building, were connected to a storm drain that runs beneath this building. Solvents used during painting could have been discharged to these lines and leaked into the groundwater or spilled directly onto the ground. The hazardous waste storage area is located 100 feet southeast of the AMRAD Building. This site formerly was the storage area for new solvents and was the location of a 250-gallon diesel spill. 

When the field studies completed in 1989 and 1990 indicated that chlorinated VOCs may be migrating northward from Hartwells Hill toward Elm Brook, the Navy took action to contain the migration of these VOCs. An Interim Remedial Action (IRA) was initiated consisting of a row of 23 groundwater extraction wells located at the base of Hartwells Hill. The extraction wells were intended to prevent contaminated groundwater from Site 3 from migrating north toward Elm Brook. The extraction wells were designed to pump water to a treatment system that would pretreat the water to remove naturally-occurring metals, and then treat the water using granular activated carbon to remove chlorinated VOCs. The Navy has been operating the groundwater extraction and treatment system since early 1997.

A Site 3 ROD was signed in 2010.  The major components of the selected remedy for Site 3 include the following:

  • In-situ enhanced bioremediation of the source area;
  • Continued operation of the existing groundwater pump-and-treat system by the property line for plume capture and control;
  • Monitored natural attenuation (MNA)/long-term monitoring (LTM);
  • Land use controls (LUCs);
  • Five-year reviews.

In 2014, an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) was finalized that modified the 2010 ROD to incorporate the SFTA into the existing remedy.  The change included expanding the groundwater monitoring/MNA/LTM program and LUCs to include SFTA.

Site 4

Site 4, is a Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene (BTEX) Plume associated with a former Transportation Building (vehicle maintenance) and its former underground storage tank (UST). The Site 4 source area is located in the northern portion of NWIRP and the associated dissolved-phase BTEX plume in groundwater extends to an off-property wetland area by Elm Brook.  Contamination at Site 4 is due to a combination of the former Transportation Building operations and a leaking UST. The Transportation Building was constructed in 1961 and was demolished in November 2001. The building was used for equipment storage and vehicle maintenance. Based on the observation of oil staining, it is possible that some waste petroleum may have been released to the ground from garage operations. The Site 4 plume also is due to a leaking pump from a 7,600-gallon UST located adjacent to the former Transportation Building. The timing of the release is unknown, but was discovered when the UST was removed during December 1988 to January 1989. During the tank removal, soil in the vicinity of the UST also was removed, vertically down to the water table (located approximately 18.5 feet below ground surface [bgs]), and over an area extending to the edge of the Transportation Building. The excavation did not extend beneath the building and it is likely that contaminated soil remained below the foundation. From 2000 to 2003, the Navy completed two CERCLA removal actions intended to reduce source area COC concentrations.

A Site 4 ROD was signed in 2009.  The major components of the selected remedy include the following:

  • Selective excavation of the source area, based on the results of pre-design investigation sampling;
  • On-site treatment of the excavated soil using bioremediation (biopiles) or off-site disposal;
  • On-site treatment and discharge of water from the excavation (if soil dewatering is required) via the existing groundwater treatment system at NWIRP Bedford;
  • Potential application of enhanced bioremediation in the excavated source area;
  • Monitored natural attenuation (MNA) of the residual BTEX concentrations in groundwater (includes long-term groundwater monitoring);
  • Institutional controls prohibiting the use of site groundwater, prohibiting residential redevelopment of the site, and restricting site building occupancy (includes annual compliance inspections and reporting);
  • Five-year reviews by the Navy, in conjunction with EPA and MassDEP, until site conditions are suitable for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

Site 1

Remedial Actions are complete.

Site 2

Remedial Actions are complete.

Site 3

Remedial Actions remain ongoing.

Site 4

Remedial Actions remain ongoing. 

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