Heavily contaminated Naval superfund site shows progress

December 3, 2014

The former Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, moves closer to full remediation after completing clean up of an important section of the site. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this week that a 19.6-acre wetland at the northern edge of the base has been returned to acceptable condition. 

The wetlands were heavily contaminated in the 1960s, when the base was still seeing active use. Local Connecticut news source The Day reports that the Navy placed bricks of DDT in the area to control insect populations, in addition to dumping polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), a synthetic organic chemical compound that was normally used as a flame retardant and lubricating oil. Petroleum residues and traces of heavy metals were also present in soil previously dumped there. The extent of contamination made it one of the nation's most heavily polluted properties. 

To address the contamination in the wetlands, clean-up crews excavated and removed over 3,000 tons of contaminated soil and trucked in replacement fresh earth. They also created four new stream channels, and planted over 500 new trees and shrubs. 

"The beauty of what we're seeing here is that we're seeing birds nesting in the areas we've planted and a greater diversity of birds," Kymberlee Keckler, project manager for the EPA, told the source. 

Remediation work will continue on other areas of the 576-acre site, with efforts including addressing a former battery storage shed with high levels of lead contamination. Keckler explains that the mass of underground utilities, such as high-pressure water lines, have slowed work in some areas. 

For communities and organizations looking to address previous contamination and return land to a condition where it can once again contribute to local economies, seeking out the expertise of environmental consultants can be a wise first step.