This website provides background information on the United States Navy’s Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) sites at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar. The overarching goal of the Navy’s ERP is to protect human health and the environment from past hazardous waste practices and releases at Navy and Marine Corps Installation Restoration Program (IRP), Munitions Response Program (MRP), and Underground Storage Tank (UST) program sites. The Navy’s ERP at MCAS Miramar is managed by the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Southwest in San Diego, California. The Navy’s ERP has identified 21 IRP sites at MCAS Miramar, seven of which have ongoing investigations or remedial actions and 13 of which are closed or have been transferred. Fifteen MRP sites have also been identified, three of which are currently undergoing investigations or remedial actions. One UST site, UST Site 1, is open under the ERP at MCAS Miramar.
Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in 1976, the first of the major statutes enacted that addresses environmental issues at Navy installations. It was designed to manage disposal of wastes which were being generated and as such addresses corrective actions for leaking USTs that used to contain fuels and other petroleum products. The management of hazardous substances at operating facilities is also regulated under RCRA and evaluated through RCRA facility assessments.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, was established in 1980 to provide a mechanism for the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous waste and prevent contamination of future sites by assigning liability to responsible parties. The MCAS Miramar IRP sites identified for the Navy’s ERP have been or are currently being addressed under CERCLA.
In 1986, the CERCLA legislation was amended through the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). Among other changes, SARA established the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) which is managed by the Office of the Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense, Installations and Environment. The DERP cleans up hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants, and military munitions remaining from past activities at military installations and formerly used defense sites.
The Marine Corps is the current landowner of MCAS Miramar and the lead federal agency working with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, and Regional Water Quality Control Board in accordance with the CERCLA process to collect and evaluate environmental data addressing issues related to past releases at each IRP and MRP site. The Regional Water Quality Control Board acts as the lead regulatory agency for the IRP and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control is the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing the MRP.
MCAS Miramar History
The property currently known as MCAS Miramar has a history rooted in military service. A lease agreement between the City of San Diego and the United States Army was signed on January 18, 1917. Camp Kearny was established during World War I on approximately 8,000 acres of land to provide an army infantry training center. An additional 5,000 acres of adjacent land was used for practice and drill maneuvers. The camp was used at the end of World War I as a demobilization center for troops until it was formally closed on October 20, 1920, followed by the demolition of the associated buildings in 1922.
Between World War I and World War II, the site was used for a variety of functions. Charles Lindberg used the abandoned parade field at Camp Kearny to practice landings and take-offs before making his historic solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in his airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. The Navy briefly used the camp as an air station during the 1930’s for helium dirigibles, until the program was abandoned. A precautionary renovation was initiated prior to the outbreak of World War II in the 1930’s, providing areas for marine artillery and machine gun training.
During the 1940’s, both the Navy and the Marine Corps occupied Miramar. East Miramar was used to train Marine artillery and armored personnel, while Navy and Marine Corps pilots trained on the western side. The Navy commissioned Naval Auxiliary Air Station Camp Kearny in early 1943 and later in the same year, the Marines established Marine Corps Air Depot Camp Kearny, later renamed Marine Corps Air Depot Miramar. The air stations were combined and designated MCAS Miramar in 1945.
In 1947, the Marines moved approximately 75 miles north to El Toro in Orange County, California, and MCAS Miramar was ordered into a reduced operational status by the Chief of Naval Operations, re-designating the installation as Naval Auxiliary Air Station Miramar. In 1969, the elite Naval Fighter Weapons School, or “Top Gun,” was established to train fighter pilots in dogfighting and fleet air defense following air to air combat during the Vietnam War. Subsequently, Top Gun and Miramar defined for an entire generation what naval aviation provides for national defense through the 1986 movie named after the school.
In 1994, the Third Marine Air Wing began moving F/A-18 squadrons to Miramar. Following the Base Realignment and Closure Committee’s recommendation to close MCAS El Toro and MCAS Tustin, the Third Marine Air Wing officially flew their flag at Miramar between February 1996 and October 1997, when the installation officially was re-designated as MCAS Miramar.
MCAS Miramar is currently home to the Third Marine Air Wing, Marine Aircraft Group 46, Reserve Support Unit, Combat Logistics Company 11, 4th Marine Air Wing Site Support, the Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig, and the Naval Aviation Survival Training Center Miramar. The primary mission of MCAS Miramar is to maintain and operate facilities, and to provide services and material to support the operations of the 3d Marine Air Wing and the other tenant organizations. The base is used by approximately 9,500 active-duty personnel, 6,500 family members, and more than 1,700 civilian employees.
In addition to its mission, the annual Miramar Airshow, a major stop on the airshow circuit featuring civilian and military aircraft, is a command sponsored open house and an integral part of the installation’s community relations mission welcoming as many as 500,000 visitors to the installation each year. It remains one of the single largest public events in the southwestern United States.
Much of the land that comprises the installation has remained in a natural state due to the concentration of land-based operations in west Miramar. The area is home to numerous habitats and species, with large portions of East Miramar, as well as undeveloped areas of the main air station, designated as sensitive natural resources. Not coincidentally, several threatened and endangered species inhabit many areas on MCAS Miramar property.
Environmental Restoration Program Background
Environmental investigations and restoration activities have been ongoing at MCAS Miramar since the mid-1980s. An initial assessment study report was prepared for the air station in September 1984, originally identifying ten potentially contaminated sites. Since then, 12 more sites have been identified. One of the IRP sites was transferred to the UST program and one IRP site was removed from the program because it is operational, resulting in a current total of 20 IRP sites and 1 UST site. There are also fifteen munitions response sites. Three munitions response sites remain open under the MRP.