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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Environmental Restoration Program Public Website

This website provides background information on the Department of the Navy’s (Navy) Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) sites at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) Twentynine Palms, 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 and Marine Corps Installation Restoration Program (IRP) sites, Munition Response Program (MRP) sites, and Underground Storage Tank (UST) sites. The Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Southwest in San Diego, California manages the Navy’s ERP at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms.

The Navy’s ERP has identified sixty-eight sites at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms. Ten of the sixty-eight sites are UST sites, and two are MRP sites. Sixty-four sites are closed, and four sites remain open.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 created the legal mechanism for cleaning up 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, environmental restoration efforts at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms IRP and MRP sites follow the process established by CERCLA.

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 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 significantly 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.

Leaking USTs that formerly contained fuels and other petroleum products are addressed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which passed in 1976.

The Navy is the lead agency for sites in the ERP and the Marine Corps is the current landowner of MCAGCC Twentynine Palms. Because the installation is not on the NPL, the State of California provides oversight of environmental restoration activities, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is not directly involved in the ERP. The Regional Water Quality Control Board, Region 7 is the lead State agency, and the Department of Toxic Substances Control assists with oversight of the Navy’s ERP at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms History

MCAGCC Twentynine Palms is in south-central San Bernardino County in Southern California. It is 55 miles north-northeast of Palm Springs and 140 miles east of Los Angeles. MCAGCC lies on the southern boundary of the Mojave Desert and includes about 1,101 square miles.

The MCAGCC Twentynine Palms primary mission is to operate live fire combined arms training that promotes readiness of operating forces, and to provide facilities, services, and support that are responsive to the needs of tenant commands, marines, sailors, and their families. The installation also provides residential housing and logistic and administrative support to Tenant Fleet Marine Forces.

The site was first used by the US Army from 1940 to 1945 for various training activities. Limited mineral and prospecting activities occurred during the post-war years. Current operations at the station began in 1952 when Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton established the Camp Detachment Marine Corps Training Center Twentynine Palms. Most of the construction at the base was completed by 1956, when the Marine Corps staged several winter training exercises. MCAGCC began to administer itself in February 1957 and was redesignated Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms. In 1978, the base was renamed MCAGCC Twentynine Palms.

MCAGCC Twentynine Palms currently provides housing facilities, administrative and logistic support, training in field communication and electronics, and live fire combat training to fleet marine forces and other associated military units. MCAGCC is the home of the Service Level Training Exercise Program. MCAGCC is separated into the Mainside Area and the Expeditionary Airfield/Camp Wilson Area.

Environmental Restoration Program Background

The purpose of the Navy’s ERP is to reduce the risk to human health and the environment from past contamination by moving IRP and MRP sites through the CERCLA process, from identification and investigation to cleanup and closure. Petroleum releases at UST sites are addressed through corrective action under RCRA.

Environmental investigations and restoration activities have been ongoing at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms since the mid-1980s. The facility is organized as one operable unit with many sub-areas or “sites” that are addressed individually as they are identified. An initial site inspection identified twenty sites posing a potential threat to human health or to the environment because of contamination from past hazardous materials operations. An additional 48 sites have been identified in the years since the initial investigation.

Most sites have been addressed and closed. Only four cases remain open. These include UST Site 10 - Former Gas Station Buildings 1077, 1078, and 1079; IRP Site 14 - Landfill No. 1; IRP Site 18 - CFR 4 or Crash Training Pit No. 4; and MRP Site UXO 01 - part of former Ranges 106 and 107. Additional background and environmental investigation information for open cases is provided on the Site Descriptions page of this website.

As mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2002, the Department of Defense (DoD) developed the Military Munitions Response Program to address military munitions under the DERP. This program was initiated specifically to address unexploded ordnance, discarded military munitions, and associated chemical residues referred to as munitions constituents on current and former military installations. Two MRP sites were identified at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms; MRP Site UXO 01 remains open and MRP Site UXO 02 is closed.

CLICK HERE for information on the Navy’s ERP.

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