The NAVSTA Newport facility has been used by the Navy since the Civil War era. Activities increased during war time, but decreased later as Navy forces were reorganized. Between 1900 and the mid-1970s, the facility was used as a refueling depot. The Naval Education and Training Center (NETC) was established at NAVSTA Newport in the 1970s. In the mid-1990s, several new laboratories were constructed at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC, formerly Naval Undersea Systems Center or NUSC) to provide research, development, testing, evaluation, engineering, and fleet support for submarines and underwater systems. In 1998, NAVSTA Newport was established as the primary host command, taking over base operating support responsibilities from NETC. The NAVSTA Newport facility encompasses approximately 1,000 acres on the west shore of Aquidneck Island, facing the east passage of Narragansett Bay, and is located in the towns of Portsmouth, Middletown, and Newport, Rhode Island. The facility also encompasses the northern third of Gould Island, which is part of the Town of Jamestown, Rhode Island.
The Navy is the lead agency for site investigation and cleanup, with formal oversight provided by EPA and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM).
Regulatory History and Overview of Environmental Investigations
The 1983 Initial Assessment Study (IAS) identified 18 areas where contamination was suspected to pose a threat to human health and/or the environment. Six of the 18 areas were investigated further in a Confirmation Study (CS) completed in 1986. The results of the combined IAS and CS, as documented in the Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA), recommended further study at a subset of areas. Based on the results of the IAS and CS, the NAVSTA Newport installation (then referred to as NETC) was added to the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989. A Phase 1 Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was subsequently completed in 1992 and the FFA was signed to document the sites that required further study. Of those sites given an Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) designation, two sites have no remaining activities required under the ERP:
Site 2, The Melville North Landfill has been investigated under RIDEM regulations, rather than under the ERP, because it was not owned by the Navy at the time of the NPL listing.
Regulatory Framework and CERCLA Process Activities
Beginning in 1980, investigations of NAVSTA Newport hazardous waste sites were conducted under the Department of Navy Assessment and Control of Installation Pollutants (NACIP) Program. After 1984, investigations at NAVSTA Newport have been conducted under the Department of Defense (DOD) ERP. Funding for investigation is allocated for DOD sites under the Defense Environmental Restoration Account (DERA).
An FFA for NAVSTA Newport was completed in 1992. The FFA was developed to enable the Navy to meet the provisions of CERCLA and applicable state law, while implementing the Navy’s ERP process. Among other requirements, the FFA outlines roles and responsibilities, establishes deadlines/schedules, and outlines the work to be performed.
Under the ERP, past disposal activities that may have resulted in the release of hazardous constituents to the environment require environmental investigation to assess the need for a remedy, and if necessary, the selection and implementation of the remedy. The phases of investigation under the Navy’s ERP and CERCLA include the Preliminary Assessment/Site Investigation (PA/SI), Remedial Investigation (RI), Feasibility Study (FS), Record of Decision (ROD), and Remedial Design/remedial Action (RD/RA). At federal facilities where the responsible federal agency has entered into a FFA with the EPA, the Navy conducts a Study Area Screening Evaluation (SASE), which is the initial study in response to a suspected hazardous substance release or threat of release. The ERP and CERCLA also have provisions for Interim Measures (IM) that can be implemented if a site poses an immediate threat to the environment.
Contaminants present that are not regulated by CERCLA are addressed under other appropriate regulatory programs. For instance, petroleum releases from systems for fueling and heating, which are regulated under state underground storage tank (UST) regulations, are investigated and remediated under the UST program.