Former Naval Command, Control, and Ocean Surveillance Center Morris Dam

Environmental Restoration Program Public Website

Site Descriptions

The Former Naval Command, Control, and Ocean Surveillance Center (NCCOSC) Morris Dam Research and Development Facility is located on a peninsula of land extending into the western side of Morris Reservoir about 1 mile North of the dam along State Highway 39. Morris Reservoir and an associated water tunnel to Pasadena were constructed circa 1934 by the city of Pasadena to provide a potable water supply.

During World War (WW) II, the Morris Dam facility was administered by the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) at China Lake, California. Engineers from the California Institute of Technology, working at the NOTS “annex” along Foothill Boulevard in Pasadena, operated the NOTS Morris Dam facility from 1943 to 1950. They created the Morris Dam Propulsion Laboratory to conduct research and development of hydro-propulsion systems. Through a series of consolidations with other Navy organizations, NOTS Pasadena became part of NCCOSC, officially created in 1992. Overall, the facility operated from approximately 1943 to 1993.

NCCOSC Morris Dam was comprised of 20 acres on the peninsula and the use of the Morris Reservoir. Its primary mission was to test and evaluate Naval torpedoes. The Morris Dam Test Facility and buildings were decommissioned circa 1997. The Navy demolished the buildings and related infrastructure including utilities during the late 1990s after the Navy accomplished its goal of designing and developing a torpedo. The facility was demolished with only concrete pads left behind.

No Further Action Installation Restoration Program Sites: 1

Site 1 – The Naval Command Control and Ocean Surveillance Center (NCCOSC) had an Emergency Removal Action completed to remove 124 55-gallon drums of lead and petroleum contaminated soil at Site 1 in 1993. A final post-excavation soil sample analyses indicated that the average residual concentrations of lead and petroleum were below regulatory concentrations of concern. The Navy had concluded that the site posed no further threat to human or environmental health and requested the site be closed. The Department of Toxic Substances Control concurred with Navy’s request to close the site and the official closure letter was signed in January 1995.

Open Installation Restoration Program Sites Ongoing Remediation: 2

Site 2 - IR Site 2 encompasses the entire peninsula extending into Morris Reservoir. The site is comprised of several areas of concern located throughout the peninsula. Various activities occurred at IR Site 2, which consisted of the use of torpedo propellant, including gasoline, diesel, OTTO fuel as well as oil and grease and solvents, and other chemicals throughout the peninsula. The chemicals of concern were OTTO fuel, total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) and its derivatives, heavy metals, perchlorates, volatiles and semi-volatiles.

Site 2 Comprisal Areas: Site 2 is comprised of several Exposure Unit (EU) areas formally known as Areas of Concern (AOCs). The original AOCs were based on specific activities on the peninsula and many of them overlapped. The AOCs were combined based on the co-location of activities and renamed EUs. The EUs that posed a potential concern at Site 2 were EU’s 1, 2, 4, and 6. Of these four exposure units, only one (EU 4) is still open.

  • EU-1 (formerly Area of Concern [AOC] 5, Subarea 1 – Leach Field Lines)

    EU-1 is located in the northern portion of the site peninsula. This area formerly included two leach fields, an older field that was previously abandoned, and a newer field that was used until the Navy ceased activities at the facility in 1993. A site investigation showed that Chromium was the only chemical of ecological concern (COEC) for terrestrial receptors associated with EU-1. To remove contamination, areal soil excavation was utilized. An area of roughly 20 feet (ft) x 20 ft was excavated at a depth of 4 ft below ground surface. Site terrain and open access allowed for direct loading of excavated material directly into a waiting truck. Approximately 50 cubic yards (cy) of material was removed from EU-1. Confirmation samples were collected at 10 locations: five from the excavation floor and five from the excavation sidewalls and were analyzed for the EU-1 COC, i.e., arsenic. The reported concentrations were below the respective site-specific Removal Action Objectives (RAOs) and EU-1 is considered protective of human and environmental health.

  • EU-2 (formerly AOC 7 – Temporary Drum Storage Area)

    EU-2 is located on the upper mid-pad area in the southern portion of the site peninsula and is comprised of two areas. The chemicals of potential concern at EU-2 consist of antimony, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, silver, and zinc. The EU-2 east area is a long narrow strip of land located along the eastern edge of EU-2 and covers an approximate area of 1,980 square feet. The EU-2 west area is a pentagonal-shaped area located on the western side of EU-2 and covers an approximate area of 1,900 square feet. EU-2 was historically used for temporary drum storage. Site terrain and open access allowed for direct loading of excavated material at EU-2.

    The excavation at EU-2 east was initially terminated at a depth of 0.5 ft below ground surface (bgs). Confirmation samples were collected at 10 locations in the EU-2 east excavation. Samples were analyzed for the EU-2 COCs, namely, arsenic, lead, and Aroclor 1242. At one location at EU-2 east (CNFL7) over-excavation was conducted due to slight exceedances of the RAO for chromium, copper, and mercury. Samples were re-collected and results were less than the respective RAOs, except for mercury. An exceedance of mercury was also recorded at location CNFL9. The confirmation samples were evaluated in the post-removal HHRA. The results demonstrated that mercury in remaining loose earthen material at EU-2 east does not pose a potential health risk. Approximately 30 cy of material were removed at EU-2 east.

    At EU-2 west, the planned excavation depth was 5 ft. On October 4, 2011, a rusty metal cylindrical object about 8 inches long resembling a bomb was encountered during excavation operations. The object was later identified as a practice bomb and as a result, the former hazardous waste storage area, was excavated entirely. The practice bomb was suspected to have been a part of the former hazardous waste storage for transportation and disposal and was inadvertently buried during the transportation and disposal activities. For this reason, there should not be any other bombs or ordnance of any type anywhere in the peninsula.

    Following this excavation, confirmation samples were collected at 10 locations at EU-2 west: five from the excavation floor and five from the excavation sidewalls. Samples were then analyzed for the EU-2 metals including arsenic, lead and Aroclor 1242. At one floor sample location at EU-2 west (CNFL4), over-excavation was conducted due to slight exceedances of the RAO for chromium, lead, and mercury. Samples were collected once more and results were less than the RAOs, except for mercury. Approximately 180 cy of material were removed at this site. The post-removal Human Health Risk Assessment was conducted and later demonstrated that mercury in EU-2 west does not pose a health risk. As a result, EU-2 is considered protective of human and environmental health.

  • EU-4 (formerly AOC 2, Subarea 2 – Oil/Water Separator; AOC 3, Subarea 2 – Outfall and AOC 4 – Propulsion Testing Areas; and AOC 6, Subarea 1 – Sump and Collection Lines)

    EU-4 is located in the southern portion of the site peninsula and covers an approximate area of 27,000 square feet. The area was historically used for fabricating and machining of torpedo parts and testing of torpedo propellants. The chemicals of potential concern associated with EU-4 include arsenic, chromium, hexavalent chromium, nickel, and perchlorate.

    The locations of California-hazardous material were based on results of in-situ waste characterization sampling. Generally, site conditions and open terrain allowed for direct loading of material from the excavator into the transport truck. Excavation operations commenced in September 2010 but were delayed until August 2011 due to difficulty in determining excavation boundaries, especially in relation to the cliffside, which had slope stability issues.

    A landslide had occurred in December 2010 due to heavy rain. After removing the landslide material, the planned excavation to remove contamination recommenced and confirmation samples were collected. Confirmation samples exceeded the EU-4 RAOs for metals (including arsenic) at several areas of the EU-4 site, primarily along the northern edge. Several “hotspot” over-excavations were conducted both laterally and vertically, and new confirmation samples were collected. The final horizontal and vertical extents for much of the EU-4 excavation exceeded the planned Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis limits. Final excavation depths varied across the site from 5 to 30 feet below ground surface depending on location. Extreme conditions including the presence of competent rock and slope stability concerns forced the termination of excavation activities. Approximately 16,000 cubic yards of material were removed from EU-4.

    Final confirmation samples were collected at the excavation limits. Excavation confirmation samples were collected from 58 locations within the excavation. Thirty-four of 58 locations were on the excavation floor. Twenty-four of 58 locations were on the sidewalls. EU-4 excavation confirmation samples were difficult to collect because the excavation termination upon competent rock.

    The confirmation samples collected were analyzed for arsenic, chromium, hexavalent chromium, nickel, and perchlorate. There were exceedances of RAOs for the metals arsenic, chromium, hexavalent chromium, and nickel were reported for several final floor samples and sidewall samples collected at EU-4. An exceedance of perchlorate was also reported in a sample from one sidewall location (CNSW22). EU-4 remains open and remediation efforts are ongoing to decrease contaminant concentrations to below the designated RAO’s.

  • EU-6 (formerly AOC 6, Subarea 2 – Sludge Sampling Area)

    EU-6 is located centrally in the western portion of the site peninsula and covers an approximate area of 3,230 square feet. The area was historically used for slurry testing during facility operations. Chromium is the only chemical of potential concern associated with EU-6.

    Excavation areal limits were approximately 56 ft by 52 ft, Confirmation samples were collected at 10 locations: six from floor excavation and four from excavation sidewalls. Samples were analyzed for arsenic, chromium, Aroclor 1254, and Aroclor 1260. Analytical results for confirmation samples indicated no exceedances of RAOs.

    The excavation depth was terminated at a depth of 5 ft bgs. This depth was adequate to remove impacted unconsolidated earthen material above the EU-specific RAOs for lead, chromium, Aroclor 1254, and Aroclor 1260. Approximately 380 cy of material were removed from the site. As a result, EU-6 is considered protective of human and environmental health.

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