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

Environmental Restoration Program Public Website

This website provides background information on the U.S. Navy’s Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) sites at former Naval Command, Control, and Ocean Surveillance Center (NCCOSC) Morris Dam. 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 (IR) sites. The Navy’s ERP at NCCOSC Morris Dam is managed by the Naval Facilities Systems Engineering Command Southwest in San Diego, California. The Navy’s ERP has identified two IR sites at former NCCOSC Morris Dam. Only one site has ongoing investigation or remedial actions. One site has been eliminated from the ERP and requires no further action.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) also known as Superfund, was established in 1980. It provides a mechanism for the United States Environmental Protection Agency to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous waste and prevent contamination of future sites by assigning liability to responsible parties. In 1986, the legislation was amended through the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, which, among other changes, established a comprehensive framework to conduct the cleanup programs at United States Department of Defense (DoD) sites.

The United States Forest Service and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) are the current landowners of NCCOSC Morris Dam. The United States Forest Service is the lead federal agency working with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and Regional Water Quality Control Board, in accordance with CERCLA, to collect and evaluate environmental data addressing issues related to past releases at each IR site.

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

The Department of the Navy (DON) constructed the 20-acre Morris Dam research and development (R&D) facility in 1943, which included not only testing areas on the peninsula, but at several locations within the reservoir region. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) operated the facility from 1943 to 1950 as an annex of Naval Weapons Station, China Lake. On October 1, 1945, DON entered into a lease agreement with MWD, which was renewed on July 1, 1968. Navy operations at the facility ceased in June 1993. Demolition of all buildings and structures was conducted during 1997, and only concrete pads remain. From approximately 1945 to 1993, DON used the facility to conduct torpedo-system testing. During the 1940s, the primary research conducted on site focused on identifying the hydrodynamic property of torpedoes and developing a sonar system for detecting underwater objects. Caltech turned over the operation of the facility to the Navy by 1950. The Morris Dam R&D facility subsequently was used primarily for testing torpedo performance. Field testing procedures consisted of launching torpedoes into the reservoir to evaluate entry into water.

The 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 R&D of hydro-propulsion systems.

NOTS Pasadena, through a series of consolidations with other Navy organizations, became part of NCCOSC, officially created in 1992. The Morris Dam Test Facility and buildings were decommissioned circa 1997. The Navy demolished site buildings and related infrastructure including utilities during the late 1990s. Due to the historic research and development at NCCOSC, operations resulted in contamination from past waste handling practices at various locations around the facility. Known or suspected contaminants include OTTO fuel, Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) and its derivatives, heavy metals, perchlorates, volatiles and semi-volatiles.

Environmental Restoration Program Background

Environmental investigations and restoration activities have been ongoing at NCCOSC Morris Dam since the mid-1990s. The Navy’s ERP has addressed or is in the process of investigating and remediating soil and groundwater contamination from past environmental releases at each of the IR sites.

IR Site 1 at NCCOSC Morris Dam was closed with no further action in 1995 following the removal action that occurred in 1993 because regulatory criteria for the contaminants at site 1 were met. Site 2 consists of several exposure units (EU) and only EU 4 is undergoing active remediation. EU’s 1, 2, and 6 have completed remediation and are considered protective of both human and environmental health. EU-4 at Site 2 is being remediated for perchlorate, arsenic, chromium, hexavalent chromium, and nickel. EU-4 is currently being monitored to assess progress toward achieving remedial action objectives with the goal of response complete under CERCLA or site closure.

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