Category Archives: Military

Items on naval facilities and other coastal bases and on Department of Defense environmental issues.

Jet Fuel Spill on May 10-11, 2017, at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach

On May 10-11, 2017, an estimated 94,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled from a leaking fuel line at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.  The Navy discovered the leak on May 11 and contained the spill to the base that day, but by then the spill had spread to Wolfsnare Creek (a tributary of Lynnhaven Bay/Lynnhaven River/Chesapeake Bay).  By May 11, the Coast Guard announced that it had contained the spill at that waterway.  As of May 16, recovery of the spilled fuel from that creek was still taking place, the Virginia Department of Health was asking people to avoid any recreational activities in the creek south of Virginia Beach Boulevard, and some residents were reporting smelling fuel fumes in their homes.  On May 17, the Navy announced that it was temporarily re-locating residents of three neighborhoods affected by the fumes from the spill. On May 19, the Navy reported that the spill had been caused by a switch being in an incorrect position during a refueling operation, leading to fuel flowing into and out of a 2000-gallon container, rather than into the three intended 880,000-gallon tanks.  Reports on May 19 indicated that about 180 homes in the city had been affected by the spill.  By May 26, the Navy had declared that emergency operations were over and tasks would now turn to remediation of the spill’s effects.  On June 23, the Navy announced that it would be discipling nine sailors for failing to perform duties that led to the jet fuel spill, and one civilian may also face disciplinary action.

Following are some news media accounts of the spill and its aftermath, listed from most recent to oldest:
Navy is disciplining nine sailors for 94,000-gallon jet fuel spill in Virginia Beach, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/25/17.
Residents return to their homes in Virginia Beach after Oceana jet fuel spill. But questions linger, Virginian-Pilot, 6/2/17.
Emergency over, Navy shifts to remediation following Oceana jet fuel spill, Virginian-Pilot, 5/26/17.
A switch in the wrong position caused Oceana’s largest ever jet-fuel spill, Navy says, Virginian-Pilot, 5/19/17.
Navy officials reveal what caused NAS Oceana jet fuel spill last week, Southside Daily, 5/19/17.
Navy providing investigation update into jet fuel spill, WAVY TV-Hampton Roads, 5/19/17.
How has the NAS Oceana jet fuel spill affected watermen?, WAVY TV-Hampton Roads, 5/18/17.
Navy offers temporary relocation to some residents near Oceana fuel spill, WAVY TV-Norfolk, 5/17/17.
Navy offers relocation assistance for neighbors impacted by jet fuel leak, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 5/17/17.
Navy starts voluntary relocation for residents affected by Oceana jet fuel spill, Virginian-Pilot, 5/17/17.
Navy relocating residents affected by jet fuel spill, WVEC TV-Norfolk, 5/17/17.
6 days after fuel spill, Virginia Beach is still in recovery “emergency phase”, Southside Daily, 5/16/17.
“My whole house reeks”: Jet fuel vapors invade Virginia Beach neighborhoods, Virginian-Pilot, 5/15/17.
Navy continues cleanup of jet fuel spill at Oceana; London Bridge Road reopened, Virginian-Pilot, 5/15/17.
Wildlife rehab specialist called in after 5 birds found dead following Oceana jet fuel spill, Virginian-Pilot, 5/12/17.
Government agencies hear public concerns about NAS Oceana fuel spill, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 5/15/17.
Navy to hold public information session Monday to discuss fuel spill in Virginia Beach, Virginian-Pilot, 5/14/17.
Watch: Crews working to clean up jet fuel spill at NAS Oceana, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 5/11/17.
Thousands of gallons of Navy jet fuel spilled at Oceana, traffic diverted near base, Virginian-Pilot, 5/11/17.

On Virginia Water Radio for Veterans Day Week 2016 – The U.S. Air Force and Its 100-Year History in Virginia’s Hampton Roads Region

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, for the week of November 7, 2016, is “For Veterans Day 2016–The U.S. Air Force, Including 100 Years on Virginia’s Coast.”  The 4 min./13 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2016/11/episode-341-11-7-16-for-veterans-day.html, examines the origins of today’s Air Force, including the role of Langley Field, now Langley Air Force Base, adjacent to Hampton, Va.

photo-2-runways

Runways at Langley Field in 1941.  Photo taken from Langley Air Force Base/633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs, “A Century of Airpower/Langley History,” online at http://www.airpoweroverhamptonroads.com/langley-history (photos on that Web site are available for public use, according to that office, 11/7/16).

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!

On Virginia Water Radio for 5-30-16: The Potomac River, Flowers, and the Origin of Memorial Day

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, for the week of May 30, 2016, is “Memorial Day’s Origin, from a Potomac River Perspective.”  The 4 min./19 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2016/05/episode-318-5-30-16-memorial-days.html, repeats a May 2015 episode that explores the Civil War origin of Memorial Day.  It features two musical selections: one inspired by the Potomac River in the Civil War; and one inspired by forest flowers, in recognition of Memorial Day’s origin in the placing of flowers on Civil War soldiers’ graves.

Ferry ramp on Virginia side

Potomac River viewed from the Virginia shore across the river from White’s Ferry, Md., May 12, 2008.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!

Plans for Groundwater Testing for Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) at 664 Sites Announced by Defense Department in March 2016; Probe Follows Discovery of PFCs at Fentress Field in Chesapeake, Va., in January 2016

In early March 2016, the U.S. Defense Department (DOD) announced that it will investigate 664 military sites in the United States for groundwater water contamination from perfluorinated compunds (PFCs), chemicals used in fire-fighting foam.  Since December 2015, DOD has investigated 28 sites, including Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake, Virginia, where drinking water was found January 2016 to contain PFCs at higher concentrations than U.S. EPA Provisional Health Advisory levels; PFCs were also discovered groundwater-monitoring wells—but not in drinking water—at Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, New Jersey).  The discovery in Chesapeake led the Navy to start giving bottled water to personnel at that base and to have groundwater within a half-mile of the base (52 wells) sampled between February 3rd and 13th for testing.

On March 10, the Navy announced preliminary results showing that two of the 52 private wells sampled had PFC levels about the EPA Advisory Levels.  As of mid-March, the Navy was still investigating ways to address the contamination, and it planned a public-information session on the situation for March 24, 2016.

5/4/16 update: In late April 2016, the Navy announced that it would have to add 12 more properties to its testing program, because it wants to continue testing at a well it had previously determined did not need further testing.  The Navy’s testing policy also requires it to test properties within a half-mile radius of the added property, resulting in plans to test the additional properties.

Information from the Navy on the Chesapeake situation is available online at www.cnic.navy.mil/fentressinfo.

News Media Items Through 5/4/16 Update:
Navy wants to test water at 12 more properties near Fentress in Chesapeake, Virginian-Pilot, 4/29/16.
Navy to monitor water quality at additional homes near Fentress, Virginian-Pilot, 3/23/16.
Navy announces preliminary results of drinking water testing near Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress, The Flagship [Norfolk, Va.], 3/16/16.
Military to check for water contamination at 664 sites, Associated Press, as published by WTOP Radio Washington, D.C., 3/10/16.
Medical expert says water near Fentress Field is safe to drink, WAVY TV Hampton Roads, 2/6/16.
Navy to begin testing well water near NALF Fentress after contaminates found in water on-base, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 2/3/16.
Navy to hold drinking water information meeting in Chesapeake, 13 News Now Norfolk, 2/3/16.
Navy to test Chesapeake well water near Fentress for contaminants, Virginian-Pilot, 2/2/16.
Water tests show contaminants in water at Chesapeake’s Fentress airfield, WTKR TV-Norfolk, 1/20/16.

Additional News Items After the 5/4/16 Update (most recent listed first):
Navy to test drinking water of some residents near NAS Oceana, WAVY-TV Portsmouth, 12/9/16.
Public meeting Tuesday [held by the Navy on June 14, 2016, in Chesapeake] to discuss NALF Fentress drinking water, WAVY TV-Hampton Roads, 6/13/16.

On Virginia Water Radio for 11/9/15: The U.S. Navy at 240

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode, for the week of November 9, 2015, is For Veterans Day 2015: The Navy at 240.  The episode focuses on the Navy on the occasion of its 240th anniversary (October 13, 2o15), including the Navy’s presence in Virginia.  The 4 min./25 sec. episode is available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2015/11/episode-289-11-9-15-for-veterans-day.html.

1775 ships

CNS (Continental Navy Ship) Mosquito and CNS Fly. Oil on canvas by William Nowland Van Powell, 1974, depicting two ships in the U.S. Continental Naval Force in October 1775. U.S. Navy Art Collection/Released. From from U.S. Navy/Naval History and Heritage, “Navy Birthday Highlights and Images,” online at http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/commemorations-toolkits/navy-birthday/Highlightsandimages.html, accessed 11/6/15.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two! 

Hazardous Waste Open-air Incineration at Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) under Scrutiny in Permit-renewal Process During 2015; Drone Monitoring Started in September 2016; Closed Incinerator in Design Phase in 2016-17; Groundwater Corrective Action Permit Under Review in Early 2016

Hazardous Waste Incineration Issue at RAAP

June 2015 initial post – June 29, 2015, was the deadline for the Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP), to submit to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) an application to renew its permit for open-air burning and detonation of hazardous wastes generated at the facility.

The 4600-acre facility, built during World War II and located along the New River in Montgomery and Pulaski counties, Va., is currently the only military-propellant manufacturer in the United States.  The propellant production results in waste containing various hazardous chemicals, such as barium, chromium, and mercury.  The practice of open-air burning of the waste is not unique to RAAP—NASA’s Wallops Island Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and the Naval Surface Warfare Center near Fredericksburg also have such permits—but is done a larger scale at RAAP than at other facilities in Virginia.

RAAP’s burning has drawn attention and raised concerns from some local citizens because of the plant’s location near residences, one school, and farmland.  In July 2015, the plant’s military commander, Lt. Col. Alicia Masson, told The Roanoke Times that the plant is in the process of designing a new closed incinerator that would be used for “the majority” of the waste now undergoing open burning. Lt. Col. Masson told the newspaper that no implementation schedule has been set yet, nor is expected performance data yet available, but that she expects it to be a “marked improvement” over the current practices.

RAAP’s 10-year DEQ permit for open-air incineration was set to expire in October 2015, and a DEQ spokesman stated that the permit renewal request would get close scrutiny because of the concerns that have been raised.  DEQ information about the open air incineration permit-renewal process and the agency’s other regulation of the RAAP is online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/EnvironmentalInformation/RadfordArmyAmmunitionPlant.

Update 3/17/16 – In early March 2016, RAAP Commander Lt. Col. Alicia Masson told The Roanoke Times that the Arsenal was continuing to investigate designing a closed incinerator for the hazardous waste burning, that drone aircraft would be used to monitor air emissions from the current open-air burning, and that the facility plans to convert its coal-fired power plant to burning natural gas within the coming 12 months (source: Air monitoring, new incinerator planned for Radford ammunition plant, Roanoke Times, 3/6/16).

Update 4/12/16 – In early April 2016, the Montgomery County, Va., Public Service Authority (PSA) announced that recent tests of two wells used to supply water to the Authority showed low levels of the chemical perchlorate.  The RAAP is located in Montgomery County.  According to the U.S. EPA (online at https://www.epa.gov/fedfac/technical-fact-sheet-perchlorate, as of 4/12/16), “perchlorate is a naturally occurring and mad-made [chemical]…commonly used as an oxidizer in solid propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, and signal flares; …also used in some electroplating operations; and found in some disinfectants and herbicides.”  According to the PSA’s executive director, the levels found in the county wells were below any health-advisory levels or standards.  Local citizens have raised concerns that the RAAP’s open burning could be a source of perchlorate that could be transported some distance.  On April 5, 2016, the director of the Public and Congressional Affairs Joint Munitions Command stated that the RAAP does not burn perchlorate in its open air waste burning.  Perchlorate has been found for years in RAAP groundwater, but RAAP officials assert that contamination has not spread to wells beyond the RAAP property.  The PSA wells that had perchlorate are located  several miles upstream of the RAAP.  Some local citizens have called for more comprehensive groundwater testing to try to determine the possible sources of perchlorate in the PSA wells, and Bill Hayden, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson, said that the DEQ intended to follow up with Montgomery County officials about the recent perchlorate findings.  The PSA executive director, however, said in early April that the PSA had no plans for continuing to test the two wells where the perchlorate was found.  Sources:  Perchlorate levels detected in two Montgomery County water systems, Roanoke Times, 4/3/16.  Montgomery County officials have no plans to further study perchlorate found in wells, Roanoke Times, 4/6/16.

Update 5/5/16 – In early May 2016, Virginia Tech announced that tests of wells on the university’s Kentland Farm—located in Montgomery County, directly across the New River from the RAAP—had found low levels of perchlorate, along with barium, chromium, and dioxins/furans in two out of five wells tested.  The perchlorate levels in the two wells were 1.25 parts per billion (ppb) and 0.78 ppb, compared to a 15-ppb level that the EPA currently uses as its Interim Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory level (see EPA Fact Sheet noted above).  The executive summary of the report, prepared for the university by consulting firm Draper Aden Associates of Blacksburg, Va., stated that “low-level detections of contaminants of concern in Kentland Farm groundwater were below applicable screening levels,” according to the Roanoke Times’ May 4, 2016, article on the report.  In response to the findings, RAAP Commander Lt. Col. Alicia Masson reiterated that the RAAP does not currently use or burn perchlorate (see 10/5/16 update below).  As noted above, perchlorate is present in some agricultural chemicals as well in some propellants, munitions, and other products, raising the question of whether the university’s farm operations could potentially be the source for perchlorate in those wells.  Source: Perchlorate found in wells at Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm, Roanoke Times, 5/4/16.

Update 5/16/16 – At a community meeting on May 12, 2016, RAAP Commander Lt. Col. Alicia Masson said that drone flights to monitor air over open-burning sites will be conducted Sept. 19-30, 2016; and that the design for closed containers to replace the open air burning is to be nearly complete (90 percent) by August 2017.  More air testing at Radford arsenal promised, Roanoke Times, 5/12/16.  Additional sources:  Radford Army Ammunition plant plans to reduce open toxic waste burns—A new incinerator is being designed to handle the toxic wastes now burned outside, Roanoke Times, 7/26/15.  Permit for Army plant near Radford to burn explosive waste is up for renewal, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/14/15; and MilitaryBases.com, “Radford Army Ammunition Plant Army Base in Radford, VA,” online at http://militarybases.com/radford-army-ammunition-plant-army-base-in-radford-va/, accessed 6/16/15.

Update 10/5/16 – In late September, RAAP began drone flights to gather emissions from its open burning operations, part of a series of tests to determine the contents of the emissions.  The test results are expected by the end of 2016.  One early result, however, is that the plant reported that some perchlorate materials had been burned at the plant, despite RAAP Commander Masson’s contention in May 2016 that the plant does not burn perchlorate, a substance that has been detected in Montgomery County wells across the New River from the plant.  Commander Masson stated that it is more accurate to say that perchlorate is rarely burned at the plant.  Radford arsenal uses drone to sample smoke from controversial burn, Roanoke Times, 10/3/16.

Groundwater Corrective Action Permit Issue at RAAP

Separate from the open-air incineration permit issue, from 1989 to 2014 the RAAP was under a Corrective Action Permit from the U.S. EPA to clean up some several areas of contaminated soil and groundwater. In August 2014, the EPA issued a “Corrective Action Final Decision,” stating that any further remediation of groundwater contaminants would be left to natural attenuation, but also that the plant must continue groundwater monitoring and maintain “institutional controls.” As of February 2016, the RAAP was applying to the Virginia DEQ to renew its groundwater Corrective Action Permit in accordance with the 2014 EPA decision.  A public hearing on the permit application was to be held February 10, 2016, in Radford.  Information from the EPA on that part of the RAAP story is available online at http://www.epa.gov/reg3wcmd/ca/va/webpages/va1210020730.html; information from the DEQ on the corrective action permit request is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/LandProtectionRevitalization/PublicNotices.aspx (as of 2/8/16).  Additional source: Radford arsenal cleanup going well, regulator says, Roanoke Times, 1/28/16.

Ongoing List of Other Media Accounts on Both Issues (oldest listed first):

Permit renewal raises questions for Radford arsenal, Appalachian Voices, 6/15/15.
Radford ammunition plant seeks fresh permit for controversial open burning, Roanoke Times, 6/28/15.
Activist Erin Brockovich focuses attention on New River Valley, WSET TV-Lynchburg, 3/30/16.
Life on the Fence Line of the Radford Arsenal, WVTF FM-Roanoke, 4/18/16.
Protestors rally for Radford Arsenal to stop burning hazardous waste, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 4/20/16.
Radford ammunition plant launches switch from coal to gas, Roanoke Times, 4/21/16.
Residents rally against Radford Army Ammunition Plant, WSLS 10 TV-Roanoke, 5/4/16 [protest by citizens outside of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-Va.) office in Roanoke on May 4, 2016].
RAAP LTC Alicia Masson Leads With Environmentalism, WVTF-FM – Roanoke, 5/10/16.
WSLS 10 investigates pollution at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, WSLS TV-Roanoke, 5/17/16 [6 min./45 sec. video, featuring views from inside the plant].
Va. Tech group to scrutinize Radford arsenal pollution, Roanoke Times, 4/19/17.

New River Arsenal Falls Jun15 2008

Arsenal Falls, part of the New River section that passes through the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, photographed here on June 15, 2008.

On Virginia Water Radio for Veterans Day Week 2014: The U.S. Coast Guard

For the week of Veterans Day 2014, Virginia Water Radio looks at the past and present of the U.S. Coast Guard.  Click here to have a listen (3 min./39 sec.)

Photo 1 Old Coast Guard Station

Old Coast Guard Station in Virginia Beach, Va., October 17, 2014. Photo by Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert, accessed online at http://www.dvidshub.net/image/1636546/old-coast-guard-station-virginia-beach#.VGDt6sm_4_s.

Virginia Water Radio, online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org, is the Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s weekly podcast using sounds and music to focus on issues, events, people, and creatures connected to Virginia’s waters.