This website provides background information on the Department of the Navy’s (Navy) Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) sites at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, Lemoore, California. 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), Munition Response Program (MRP), and Underground Storage Tank (UST) Program sites. The Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Southwest in San Diego, California manages the Navy’s ERP at NAS Lemoore.
The Navy’s ERP has identified 21 IRP sites at NAS Lemoore. Seven of the 21 IRP sites are closed, and 14 sites are open. There are five UST sites. Two are closed, two are pending closure, and one site is open.
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 Lemoore 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 Navy is the current administrator of NAS Lemoore and the lead federal agency working with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. In accordance with the CERCLA process, the Navy and the state regulatory agencies collect and evaluate environmental data, addressing issues related to past releases at each ERP site. Because NAS Lemoore is not on the NPL, the State of California provides oversight of environmental restoration activities. The Department of Toxic Substances Control acts as the lead regulatory agency, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board assists with oversight of the Navy’s ERP.
Naval Air Station Lemoore History
NAS Lemoore is in central San Joaquin Valley, 35 miles south of Fresno, 80 miles northwest of Bakersfield, and 7 miles west of Lemoore, California. The base consists of 18,784 acres of land, the majority of which is leased for agricultural use. An additional 11,039 acres are designated for flight safety easements.
The decision to construct NAS Lemoore was made in 1954 when it became apparent that NAS Moffett Field, located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, could not be expanded because of urban encroachment. The establishment of a master jet base in this area of the country was part of a plan that called for a small number of naval air stations designed specifically for the operation of jet aircraft. The stations were to be near enough to the Navy's seaport bases to access their logistics support, but far enough from large population centers to allow for major expansion and to accommodate the rapidly advancing jet age technology.
A 1954 site selection survey conducted by the Navy recommended Lemoore as best overall location. Funds were appropriated In 1957 and the property and easements comprising the base were acquired for use by the Navy. Construction work started that year and NAS Lemoore was commissioned on July 8, 1961. When the air station was first developed, 108 square miles of land in the two counties surrounding the installation were zoned as exclusively agricultural. This protected the air station from encroachment, especially from residential development.
The primary mission at NAS Lemoore is to maintain and operate aviation facilities and to provide services and material support to aviation. The base was selected in 1998 as the central west coast home port for all Navy air wings and the newest strike-fighter F-18 Super Hornet aircraft. This action brought an additional 92 aircraft, 1,850 additional military personnel, and 3,000 family members to the base, with significant additional facilities and improvements. From 2001 to 2004, additional military staffing and specialized fighter and technical aviation training units were brought to the base.
Today, NAS Lemoore is home to Commander Strike Fighter Wing Pacific (CSFWP) and Commander Joint Strike Fighter Wing (CJSFW). More than half of the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft reside here, and it is the only Navy installation to house the F-35C Lightning II. NAS Lemoore hosts 16 operational strike fighter squadrons, two fleet replacement squadrons and one search and rescue squadron, and four west coast carrier air wing commands and staff. An average of 210,000 flight operations occur annually.
The installation is divided into the operations area to the north and the administration and housing areas to the south. Aircraft maintenance and support, including runways and hangars, are in the operations area, and personnel administration and support are in the administration and housing area. NAS Lemoore supports over 12,000 personnel, including over 1,500 civilians and contractors, 6,400 military personnel, and their more than 4,000 dependents.
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.
Environmental investigations and restoration activities have been ongoing at NAS Lemoore since the mid-1980s. A 1984 report documented the first major environmental investigation undertaken by the Navy, an initial assessment study performed to identify and assess sites posing a potential threat to human health or to the environment because of contamination from past hazardous materials operations. Potentially contaminated IRP Sites 1 through 13 were identified during the study at NAS Lemoore. In 1986, the IRP sites 5 and 9 were combined because of proximity and similar contaminants.
IRP Site 14 was identified in 1988 after an investigation of a fuel tank spill and potential JP-5 fuel contamination. During the verification phase that included sampling following the initial assessment study, IRP sites 15 and 16 were identified. IRP 17 was identified after a leak was discovered in a jet fuel pipeline in 1987. IRP Sites 18 is within the boundary of IRP Site 14 and was separated from the site by the Navy in 2015 because it was considered a discrete source area for contaminants in an underlying shallow aquifer.
The USTs at UST sites 01 and 02 were within the boundaries of IRP Site 14. The tanks were removed and considered closed by 1996. Contamination associated with UST Site 01 is being addressed as part of actions at IRP Site 14. UST Site 03 is at the location of a former Naval Exchange gasoline station, where a gasoline release from four USTs and associated piping was discovered in 1988. UST Site 765 is the location of a former service station with USTs that operated until 1988, when the tanks were removed and the Navy initiated petroleum hydrocarbon contamination investigations. UST 773 is the site of a jet fuel spill that required the monitoring of groundwater for petroleum hydrocarbon contamination until 2009. Both UST Site 765 and 773 received no further action required status in 2012 and 2013, respectively, pending the Navy’s documented destruction of all monitoring wells.
To investigate the potential for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at NAS Lemoore, compounds identified as “emerging contaminants” by the USEPA, a basewide preliminary assessment and site inspection for PFAS chemicals were conducted in 2018 and 2021. Based on site inspection results, PFAS-impacted areas were identified within IRP Sites 5, 9, 14, and 18; closed sites IRP Sites 4 and 6, and new areas of interest not previously investigated, now identified as Installation IRP Sites 19, 20, and 21.
Additional background and environmental investigation information is provided on the Site Descriptions page of the NAS Lemoore website for the 21 IRP sites and three USTs included in the ERP.
CLICK HERE for information on the Navy’s ERP.