Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The Picatinny Arsenal site covers approximately 5,900 acres in Morris County, New Jersey. Beginning in the mid-1800s, Picatinny manufactured artillery, ammunition, explosives, and other weapons. These past industrial activities and waste disposal practices contaminated surface water, groundwater, soil, sediment, and game fish with hazardous chemicals including heavy metals, organic compounds, and munitions constituents. As part of the site’s cleanup, contaminated soils have been removed or capped, groundwater remedies are in place, and land use controls are used to limit the potential for exposure to hazardous waste. Cleanup activities and monitoring are ongoing, with upcoming efforts to remove soil contamination, address pollution in on-site lakes, and investigate munitions-related contaminants. Today, the facility is an active weapons research and development facility owned by the U.S. Army.

The Picatinny Arsenal has a long history of manufacturing explosives, beginning in the mid-1800s. In 1908, it was designated a U.S. Army Arsenal. The Arsenal has been a site for the production of various munitions, including cannon shot in its earlier days and artillery ammunition bombs, high explosives and other ordnance during World War I. During World War II, 20,000 people produced artillery, ammunition, bombs, high explosives, pyrotechnics and other ordnance items on site. The Arsenal was a major source of munitions for the Korean War and the Vietnam War. More recently, the Arsenal, officially known as the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (USARDEC), has been tasked to perform the research on, and development of, large-caliber munitions. The U.S. Army owns and operates the Arsenal.

Based upon various investigations, EPA placed the site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List in February 1990.




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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The site’s cleanup is being addressed in a phased approach. A total of 156 areas of concern (AOCs) have been divided into three phases to be studied in succession. Phase I generally encompasses the highest priority sites, which are located in the southern part of the Arsenal. In total, 61 sites have undergone Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) closure at the site. Cleanup activities for specific areas are discussed below.

Area D Groundwater: This area consists of a large VOC groundwater plume thought to have originated from degreasing activities at Building 24. The remedy selected for Area D Groundwater was selected in the site’s September 2004 Record of Decision, or ROD, which called for a passive treatment barrier (PTB) consisting of zero-valent iron to intercept and treat the VOC plume before it discharges to surface water. The remedy also includes monitored natural attenuation and land use controls (LUCs). Installation of the PTB took place in the spring of 2007. Cleanup of soils associated with the Building 24 lagoon were addressed under RCRA. Monitoring of the groundwater remedy is ongoing.

Site 20/24, Pyrotechnic Testing Range/Sanitary Landfill: Landfilling and staging activities occurred at the Pyrotechnic Testing Range/Sanitary Landfill, also known as Site 20/24, which resulted in surface soil contamination with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The remedy for these areas, selected in the site’s June 2002 ROD, called for a vegetated soil cover, wetlands mitigation and LUCs. The soil cover was completed in 2003 and wetlands mitigation finished in 2004. Groundwater in the area has been contaminated with VOCs and is being addressed as a separate operable unit referred to as Area B Groundwater, which is discussed below.

Site 23, Post Farm Landfill: From the 1940s to 1970s, this area received industrial wastes generated at the Arsenal. Drummed wastes included caustic-paint stripper, used hydraulic oils, wastewater from oil reservoirs and tank-cleaning wastes. Other wastes included fly ash from coal-burning operations and solid waste. A removal action in 1993 removed drums and contaminated soil. A soil cover was placed over the excavated area and seeded with grass. The Army subsequently investigated this area to determine the nature and extent of contamination in soil, groundwater, surface water and sediment. The remedy for the Post Farm Landfill, selected in the site’s December 2004 ROD, is maintenance of the existing soil cover, groundwater monitoring and LUCs. The remedy was put in place in January 2008, and monitoring is ongoing

Burning Ground Area: Explosives-contaminated sludge and sediment from manufacturing processes were sent to this area to be incinerated in metal pans. The remedy, selected in the site’s September 2005 ROD, called for an asphalt pavement cap for contaminated soils, groundwater monitoring and LUCs. A new incinerator built elsewhere on site replaced the Burning Grounds operation. Construction of the cap over the Burning Grounds was completed in 2014, and monitoring is ongoing

Green Pond and Bear Swamp Brooks: These waterways are the primary surface-transport bodies at the site. Army investigations found contaminated sediments and, to a lesser extent, contaminated surface water. A removal action previously took place at a sedimentation basin on Bear Swamp Brook. The removal action excavated contaminated sediment and restored the sedimentation basin. The remedy for Green Pond Brook and Bear Swamp Brook, selected in the site’s July 2005 ROD, is excavation of an oil/water separator on Bear Swamp Brook, chemical and biological monitoring along the brooks, and LUCs. The remedy was put in place in 2008, and monitoring is ongoing.

Area E Groundwater and Building 95 Impoundments: Two unlined sand-filter lagoons received treated wastewater from a metal-plating and etching operation in Building 95, also known as Site 22. Removal of contaminated soils and piping associated with the lagoons was completed under RCRA. Groundwater in Area E has also been contaminated with VOCs associated with Building 95 operations. The remedy for Area E Groundwater, selected in the site’s September 2007 ROD, is monitored natural attenuation and LUCs. The remedy for the Building 95 Impoundments is LUCs. The remedy was put in place in July 2008, and monitoring is ongoing

Site 25/26, Sanitary Landfill and Dredge Disposal Pile: Site 25, a sanitary landfill, operated from the 1940s to the 1970s. It received industrial waste, shells, rubbish and sewage-treatment plant sludge. Site 26, a dredge pile, is located in Site 25. It consists of dredge spoils from adjacent Green Pond Brook. The remedy for these areas, selected in the site’s July 2007 ROD, is capping a small area of soil contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) with a soil cover and LUCs. The remedy was put in place in May 2008.

Site 180, Waste Burial Area: This area was an unregulated landfill in the 1960s and 1970s. Items that may have been put in the landfill include drums, debris, unexploded ordnance, railroad ties, telephone poles, concrete rubble, crushed steel drums and building materials. The remedy for Site 180, selected in the site’s September 2007 ROD, is LUCs. The remedy was put in place in January 2008.

Land Use Control Remedy for Soils at Sites 19, 28, 44, 49, 86, 106, 124, 135, 141, 143, 163, 182 and 183: Thirteen Phase I sites are grouped together because the remedy – LUCs – is the same for each. The LUCs are necessary because the soil at each of these sites has been impacted by low-level contamination. The level of contamination allows for commercial and industrial uses, but would not be suitable for residential use. The LUCs restrict residential use of these sites. The remedy, selected in the site’s September 2008 ROD, was put in place in December 2008.

Site 61/104, Waste Dumps behind Buildings 171 and 176 and Buildings 161 and 162, Chemical Laboratories: Site 61 was used for laboratory equipment storage, ammunition sampling and as a photographic laboratory. Waste from these operations was reportedly disposed of behind Buildings 171 and 176. Site 104 was used for propellant and ammunition analyses. Both of these sites are located next to Green Pond Brook. The remedy for Site 61 and 104, selected in the site’s March 2009 ROD, included soil removal from two areas behind Building 162 and LUCs for both sites. The remedy was put in place in March 2009.

Area B Groundwater: This area consists of VOC-contaminated groundwater at Site 20/24 (discussed above). The remedy, selected in the site’s April 2009 ROD, consists of injection of a carbon substrate (diluted molasses) into contaminated groundwater to accelerate the degradation of the VOCs, monitored natural attenuation and LUCs. The remedy was put in place in April 2009, and groundwater continues to be monitored.

Area C Groundwater: This area consists of low-level groundwater contamination in isolated locations near the southern boundary of Picatinny Arsenal. The remedy, selected in the site’s September 2009 ROD, consists of groundwater monitoring and LUCs. The remedy was put in place in August 2010, and groundwater continues to be monitored.

Site 31/101, Former Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO), Former Gasoline Station and Storage Area: The former DRMO Yard was used to stage equipment and material for disposal, reuse or sale. As a result of this operation, the DRMO Yard became contaminated with PCBs, lead, PAHs and munitions. The remedy, selected in the site’s June 2009 ROD, included the removal of high levels of PCBs and lead in soil and bituminous covers for soil with lower levels of contamination and LUCs. In addition, an area of the DRMO Yard was found to have discarded munitions. The Army removed munitions found on the surface and put in a 2-foot soil cover over the affected area. The remedy was put in place in February 2011.

Group 3 Groundwater and Surface Water: This area consists of VOC-contaminated groundwater and impacted surface water at Site 2, a site within Group 3. The remedy, selected in the site’s August 2010 ROD, includes injection of emulsified vegetable oil into affected groundwater to induce dechlorination of the VOCs, surface water monitoring, monitored natural attenuation and LUCs. The remedy was put in place in February 2011, and groundwater and surface water continue to be monitored.

Group 1 Sites: This area consists of contaminated groundwater and soil at Sites 40, 93, 156 and 157 on the northwestern shore of Lake Picatinny. Groundwater and soil at Sites 40 and 93 were contaminated with explosives. In addition, soil at Group 1 Sites was contaminated with low levels of metals and explosives. The remedy, selected in the site’s September 2010 ROD, included monitored natural attenuation for Group 1 Sites groundwater, removal of explosive-contaminated soil at Sites 40 and 93 and two hot spots from Site 156, and LUCs. The remedy was put in place in April 2011, and monitoring is ongoing.

Site 78, Building 91, Optics Prototype Facility: Site 78 consists of VOC-contaminated groundwater and surface water. The remedy, selected in the site’s July 2011 ROD, is monitored natural attenuation, surface water monitoring and LUCs. The remedy for Site 78 was put in place in October 2011 and monitoring is ongoing

Mid-Valley Groundwater: This area consists of groundwater contaminated with VOCs and explosives over a large area south of Picatinny Lake. The remedy, selected in the site’s September 2012 ROD includes treating the source area in bedrock with emulsified vegetable oil, a carbon substrate, and monitored natural attenuation and LUCs for the balance of the VOC and explosive contaminated groundwater. Monitoring for the site is ongoing.

3-Site Group: This area includes Site 118, Site 131, and Site 149, which consist of soils contaminated with heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The final Proposed Plan for the site was issued on August 28, 2014, proposing excavation and land use controls. The Army/EPA signed a Record of Decision for the site in 2017, and cleanup work was completed in the spring of 2018. The Army/EPA are currently finishing an Explanation of Significant Difference and a Remedial Action Completion Report for the site. The remedy involved the excavation of a total of 510.61 tons of soil which was disposed of off-site.

600 Hill: This site is comprised of both an IRP site (the 600 Hill Groundwater Plume) and an MMRP site (the Inactive Munitions Waste Pit). On October 31, 2019, EPA  and the Army approved a Record of Decision which proposes the excavation and off-site disposal of the entire Munitions Waste Pit, including TCE-contaminated soil and the removal of all military munitions and munitions debris in the Waste Pit area.

Lakes Group: This area consists of Lake Denmark and the EOD Pond. Sampling of the water bodiesrevealed high levels of mercury in fish tissue. The Proposed Plan for EOD Pond and Lake Denmark, which plans for a continuance of Land Use Controls to limit fish consumption and other exposures, was issued in April of 2017. A ROD is forthcoming..

PICA-111: This area consists of several sites with groundwater and soil contaminations. The Proposed Plan for PICA-111 is under review .

Picatinny Lake: Picatinny Lake was removed from the Lakes Group due to differences in the proposed work at this site and scheduling logistics. The Proposed Plan for Picatinny Lake is forthcoming.

45 Site Group: The 45 Site group is composed of 45 sites with varying levels of soil contamination. These sites will be addressed in several forthcoming Proposed Plans.

Combined IRP/MMRP Sites: Sites including the Mortar and Skeet Range and assorted MMRP Sites are currently undergoing Feasibility Studies for both chemical contaminants and munitions components. The public comment period for the Mortar and Skeet Range was released to the public on July 9 and virtual public meeting was conducted on July 9 for input.

Remaining Areas: Ongoing investigations and studies are being conducted at the remaining site areas to determine the nature and extent of contamination and necessary response actions. The Phase I, Phase II and Phase III remedial investigations have been completed. Next steps for the sites include feasibility studies, Proposed Plans and RODs.

EPA has conducted several five-year reviews at the site. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by site decision documents. The reviews concluded that response actions at the site are in accordance with the remedy selected by EPA and that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment. The last five-year review was completed in September, 2016.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

Picatinny Arsenal is participating in the Installation Restoration Program, a specially-funded program established by the Department of Defense (DoD) in 1978 to identify, investigate and control the migration of hazardous contaminants at military and other DoD facilities. The Army and EPA signed an Interagency Agreement in May 1991 to formalize EPA oversight of the CERCLA cleanup of the facility.

Picatinny Arsenal has many remedies in place for contaminated groundwater which involve both treatment and monitoring. The primary treatment methods for groundwater are in-place remedies consisting of injection of substrates such as dilute molasses into groundwater. These substratesbreak down volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into innocuous products. Monitorednatural attenuation (MNA) is another approach, where monitoring is conducted while natural processes are allowed to decrease concentrations of contaminants in groundwater Another remedial approach involves an in-place permeable reactive barrier consisting of zero-valent iron that breaks down VOCs to protect surface water.

Contaminated soil and sediment have been addressed by removals, covers and land use controls (LUCs). Covers and LUCs are designed to prevent unacceptable exposures. Warning signs in these areas inform workers and others of the soil contamination and prevent disturbance of the covers. These LUC remedies are inspected on an annual basis and reported to EPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP): Historical operations at Picatinny Arsenal resulted in unexploded ordnance (UXO) scattered throughout the facility and off site. The UXO is often buried, due to the force of its landing and other mechanisms. Picatinny has completed its MMRP Remedial Investigation and is currently drafting Feasibility Studies for MMRP-related sites, some of which have been combined with IRP sites. In addition, the Army has cleared unexploded ordnance from an off-site quarry next to the Arsenal and from several on-site areas. Picatinny Arsenal employs UXO clearance when excavations are done in in most areas of the facility. 


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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.

Picatinny has controls in place as components of regular facility operationwhich prevent unrestricted use, including: Picatinny access regulations, Picatinny safety program, Army military construction program development and execution, site clearance/soil management procedures, munitions and explosives of concern clearance procedures, and Picatinny Installation Master Plan environmental notations, which includes the Picatinny Geographic Information System (GIS or EPRISM) Database that shows the boundaries of each site and any land use restrictions for the sites. Land Use Controls (LUCs) are used throughout the site, restricting access to and use of areas where contamination remains that does not allow for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure. These LUCs include components similar to the base-wide controls described above, and are enforced by the Picatinny Garrison Safety Office, Environmental Division, and the Office of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. 

Picatinny also has media-specific restrictions, including the base-wide New Jersey Classification Exception Area (CEA), a provision which is used to guard against unauthorized use of groundwater. Fish consumption is also controlled by site-specific guidelines.

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Sampling and Monitoring

Sampling of soil, groundwater and surface water is conducted to determine whether an environmental cleanup is necessary,and groundwater is monitored to determine whether the remedy for those areas of concern are effective.

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