This website provides background information on the U.S. Navy’s Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) sites at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon. 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 Installation Restoration Program (IRP) sites and Munition Response Program (MRP) sites. The Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Southwest (NAVFAC SW) in San Diego, California manages the Navy’s ERP at NAS Fallon.
The Navy’s ERP has identified thirty-two IRP sites. Fifteen are open under the IRP and seventeen are closed. One MRP site is open under the ERP at NAS Fallon. Six underground storage tank (UST) sites addressed under the petroleum corrective action program in accordance with State of Nevada UST regulations include four closed sites and two sites that remain open at NAS Fallon.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 created the legal mechanism for the cleaning up of abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Although CERCLA did not apply to environmental restoration at military installations, its provisions were adopted by the Department of Defense (DoD) as a model for environmental cleanups by the military components. Accordingly, the process established by CERCLA for environmental restoration efforts is followed at NAS Fallon IRP sites.
The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) amended the CERCLA legislation in 1986. Among other changes, SARA established the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP). The Secretary of Defense provides oversight of the DERP and has delegated responsibility for the DERP’s implementation and the DoD’s lead agency status to individual military departments. The DERP cleans up hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants, and military munitions remaining from past activities at active military installations, installations undergoing base realignment and closure, and formerly used defense sites. Because the DERP has a substantially larger scope than CERCLA, certain petroleum releases may be remediated using DERP funds, sites do not need to be on the National Priorities List (NPL) to be managed using DERP funds, and the DoD serves as the lead agency on ERP projects.
Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in 1976, among the first of the major statutes enacted that addresses environmental issues at Navy installations. The act was designed to manage disposal of wastes that were generated and to address corrective actions for leaking USTs that formerly contained fuels and other petroleum products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) authorized responsibility for implementing the RCRA hazardous waste program to individual states, including the State of Nevada petroleum corrective action program UST regulations.
The Navy is the current landowner of NAS Fallon and the lead federal agency working with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection in accordance with the CERCLA process to collect and evaluate environmental data, addressing issues related to past releases at each IRP site and the MRP site. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection is the lead regulator that oversees IRP activities at NAS Fallon, as the base is not listed on the National Priorities List.
Naval Air Station Fallon History
NAS Fallon is 6 miles southeast of Fallon, Nevada, the county seat of Churchill County. Reno, Nevada, lies 60 miles west of Fallon. The main station encompasses 8,583 acres and is in the central part of the Carson Desert, commonly referred to as the Lahontan Valley. It includes airfield and maintenance facilities, public works and supply facilities, and housing. An additional 18 parcels, four of which are used as aerial weapons training ranges, are in the general vicinity of the main station. The NAS Fallon training ranges occupy an additional 232,456 acres and are off the main base site.
NAS Fallon was originally established as a military facility in 1942, when the Civil Aviation Administration and Army Air Corps constructed four airfields in Nevada as part of the Western Defense Program. In 1943, the Navy assumed control of the facility, and on June 10, 1944, Naval Air Auxiliary Station (NAAS) Fallon was commissioned. The facility provided training, servicing, and support to air groups sent to the facility for combat training. At war’s end, NAAS Fallon was placed in caretaker status until it was designated as an auxiliary landing field for NAS Alameda in 1951. NAAS Fallon was re-established on October 1, 1953. From 1958 to 1972, the station was designated Van Voorhis Airfield in honor of a Medal of Honor recipient from Fallon.
The station was expanded and upgraded in the early 1960s to prepare aircrews for Vietnam conflict duty. NAAS Fallon was upgraded to its current status as NAS Fallon on January 1, 1972. The air station’s mission is to provide the most realistic integrated air warfare training support available to carrier air wings, Marine air groups, tenant commands, and individual units participating in training events including joint and multinational exercises.
NAS Fallon is home to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center and Fighter Squadron Composite 13. As of 2021, the NAS Fallon base population is greater than 3,000 active-duty personnel, civilian employees, and DoD contractors.
Environmental Restoration Program Background
The purpose of the Navy’s ERP is to reduce the risk to human health and the environment from environmental contamination by moving IRP sites through the CERCLA process, from identification and investigation to cleanup and closure.
The Navy instituted the IRP at NAS Fallon to meet the requirements of CERCLA. The facility has 32 IRP sites in total. Investigations at IRP Sites 1 through 27 were initiated in 1988. IRP Site 28 was identified after groundwater monitoring was initiated at IRP Sites 21 and 22 in 2011, and IRP Site 29 was added to the list of IRP sites in 2013.
To investigate the PFAS at NAS Fallon, compounds identified as “emerging contaminants” by the USEPA, a basewide preliminary assessment and site inspection for PFAS chemicals were completed in 2019 and 2022. Based on site inspection results, PFAS-impacted areas were identified within active IRP Sites 1, 2, 3, and 4; closed site IRP Site 9; and new areas of interest not previously investigated, now identified as IRP Sites 30, 31, and 32. Additionally, the boundary of IRP Site 3 was expanded to include additional areas of interest identified during the preliminary assessment and site inspection.
Seventeen of the 32 IRP sites are closed with no further action required. The remaining 15 IRP sites are open and at various stages within the CERCLA process. One of the 15 open sites, IRP Site 9, was closed but has been reopened following the basewide PFAS investigations.
The Navy is preparing a report for one active MRP site identified as UXO1 following a preliminary assessment of the area, adjacent to the Fallon Range Training Complex B-19.
Four closed and two open UST sites have been addressed under the petroleum corrective action program at NAS Fallon. UST-R Site 01 was identified in the early 1990s when fuel storage tanks were removed from a former military gas station site. Petroleum contamination was identified in the mid-1980s when the removal of oil and fuel storage tanks was initiated at the closed UST R Site 02. Three sites in northern NAS Fallon where USTs were removed in the early 1990s were grouped together as UST-R Site 3. One site was transferred to the IRP before closure in 2001. The other two UST-R Site 3 locations were closed in the mid-1990s. A review of utility drawings in 2008 led to the identification of closed UST-R Site 04 when contamination from a possible former tank was found. Building demolition activities in 2008 uncovered soil contamination at a former fuel tank site identified as closed UST R 05. UST-R Site 6 is a former fuel oil pipeline area identified in 2013 when petroleum contamination was found downgradient of IRP Sites 14 and 16.
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