Blue Grass Army Depot: Contaminated lagoons restored to pasture land

Published Jan. 28, 2014
The former lagoon area in September 2013, just eight weeks after remediation, shows re-established vegetation at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

The former lagoon area in September 2013, just eight weeks after remediation, shows re-established vegetation at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

In 2010, Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) faced a great regulatory challenge with Wash-Out facility operations due to contaminated lagoons.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Louisville District worked with BGAD to successfully restore contaminated lagoons back to pasture lands at the ammunition and storage depot in central Kentucky in record time of less than three years.   


The Wash-Out facility at BGAD, which had long been utilized for washing and removal of energetic material from munitions items, was discharging excess water to two lagoons, known as the upper and lower lagoons when the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection (KDEP), ordered immediate cessation of discharges in July 2010 due to potential contamination problems.


USACE was called in to perform a Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) investigation and remediation, which got underway immediately.


“The Installation’s commitment to environmental stewardship really helped guide this project,” said Clayton Hayes, USACE Project Manager. “Our coordination with them, and the KDEP allowed us to chart the path and achieve a successful full restoration.”


The area, known as Solid Waste Management Unit #25, consisted of a lower lagoon which was the primary point for facility discharges, and an upper lagoon.  The wash-out facility in a nearby building removes explosive materials— TNT and Composition B— from obsolete ammunitions using jets of hot water. The explosive materials, which dry and form into flakes are packaged for storage and shipment, but the excess water is cleaned with carbon filtration and pumped into holding tanks to be tested before being discharged into the lagoons.


By the summer of 2011 soil and surface water sampling began in the lagoons to determine the nature and extent of contamination.


“Ultimately, the investigation found no indication of contamination in the upper lagoon,” said Hayes. “But the lower lagoon— which was the primary point of water discharges—had contamination caused by decades of operation.”


Excavation and disposal of the soils at the lower lagoon was recommended. BGAD faced great regulatory challenges in an effort to correct the situation, and ultimately, the Installation Commander at BGAD made a stewardship decision to permanently sever the lagoons from the wash-out facility.  Additionally, operational changes prevented further contamination.


In February 2013, USACE awarded the project to ERT, Inc.  ERT was instrumental in developing an approved work plan which involved the use of decision units and multi-increment soil sampling.  This method enabled the generation of data which showed that the constituents were below the screening levels.  Subsequent efforts involved regulatory coordination that led to expeditiously completing a full restoration.


“Coordination with the installation and KDEP was paramount in getting all permits and reports processed quickly to get this project closed-out,” said Hayes. “Thanks to all for great teamwork which resulted in success for this project,” said Hayes.


On November 14, 2013, KDEP issued BGAD a letter of approval for Site Closeout / Response Complete for Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) 25, which helped BGAD meet their regulatory and environmental commitments, while ensuring health and safety of the public and the environment.


“The former lagoon area is now fully remediated and restored with rolling hills and native grasses to match the topography,” said Clayton Hayes, USACE Project Manager. “It’s like the lagoons were never there.”


BGAD was very pleased with the results and submitted the project as a self-nomination package for the Secretary of the Army Environmental Awards Contest under the Installation Level, Environmental Restoration category.