‘Significant progress’ in cleanup

Published 9:58 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

A board that oversees environmental cleanup at a former munitions depot in North Suffolk said this week there has been significant progress on the site.

The Former Nansemond Ordnance Depot Restoration Advisory Board met at the Suffolk Chesapeake Courtyard Marriott on Thursday to discuss progress on the site. Members, including government, business and community representatives, discussed updates on the Horseshoe Pond area and the Munitions and Explosive Concerns shoreline investigation.

“The idea of a RAB is to bring those elements together so there’s a level of transparency in what we’re doing,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Office chief Mark Haviland said.

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The military stored ammunition on the 975 acres of waterfront property at the end of College Drive during World Wars I and II. The land was used as a disposal area for bulk explosives, small arms ammunition and scrap metal. Burial pits at the site contain remains from burn pits used decades ago.

USACE project manager Sher Zaman said the goal is to clean up the hazardous waste by 2021. He said that approximately $72 million has been spent on the project since 1987 and more than half of the areas of concern have been remedied.

“I think we’re making significant progress,” Zaman said.

The board’s objectives are to reduce human exposure to contaminants of concern and ecological risks for the soil and the nearby Horseshoe Pond and Nansemond River.

Soil samples have been collected from the site to determine the extent of munitions contaminants. Groundwater has also been sampled to assess whether these contaminants have been released into nearby bodies of water.

Elevated levels of pH and metals were discovered in the groundwater samples. A risk assessment of these findings is being evaluated to determine the next course of action.

“The risk assessment is basically a process of determining the exposure over a long period of time, and what type of risk is associated with that,” Zaman said.

A temporary well was used for data collection in 2016. There are now plans for a permanent well installation for data that is more accurate and representative of the site.

Tidewater Community College, Virginia Department of Transportation, General Electric and Hampton Roads Sanitation District all own parts of the property. Ashley Capital and Dominion Power also have property adjacent to Horseshoe Pond.

Zamad said the board is making sure the site is safe for use by landowners interested in future development.

“We try to work with the landowners to understand what they’re doing at the site,” Zaman said. “All the information is needed to make a decision as to what needs to be done at the site.”