This website is part of the Navy's commitment to provide accurate, timely, and comprehensive information on the Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) currently in progress at Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area, Master Station Atlantic Detachment (NCTAMS LANT Det) Cutler (also known as Naval Support Activity [NSA] Cutler) located in Cutler, Maine. The Navy’s ERP for NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler includes several Installation Restoration Program (IRP) sites and one Munitions Response Program (MRP) site. Site descriptions and environmental information are provided in the following pages.
In 1957, the U.S. Department of the Navy (Navy) began acquiring property near the Town of Cutler, Maine. The communications facility was initially comprised of three parcels of land to include: the Administrative and Housing Area; the High Frequency (HF) Area; and the Very Low Frequency (VLF) Area. In 1958, the Navy took ownership and began operations. This federal facility, formerly known as the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS) and now known as NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler, was commissioned on June 23, 1961. The mission of NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler has been to provide navigational signals and maintain communications with ships, planes, and submarines in the North Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. The Cutler facility is located approximately 4 miles from the town of Cutler and 10 miles from the town of Machias, Maine.
The 80-acre former Administrative and Housing Area was transferred by the Navy to Cutler Development Corporation in 2003. The 100-acre HF Area is no longer active. The VLF Area continues to operate on Navy-owned land. The VLF Area is situated on a 2,860-acre peninsula located on the coast of eastern Maine and consists of cleared and forested land, transmitter towers, and several support buildings. The VLF Area is bordered by Holmes Bay and Machias Bay to the west, Little Machias Bay to the east, and the Gulf of Maine (Atlantic Ocean) and Cross Island to the south. Undeveloped wooded land borders the VLF Area to the north.
Overview of the Environmental Restoration Program
Environmental restoration activities at NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler have been ongoing since the 1980s when the Naval Energy and Environmental Support Activity (NEESA) completed a Preliminary Assessment (PA) in 1988. This PA identified two sites where historical Navy activities resulted in a release of oil and/or hazardous materials to the environment. These two sites included a former fire training area (Site 1 – Fire Training Area) and a temporary repository salvage yard area (Site 2 – Salvage Yard Area), both located in the VLF Area north of the antenna arrays. The PA recommended further investigation of these two sites to determine if any hazardous wastes had been buried and if any groundwater contamination had occurred including the collection of soil and groundwater samples for chemical analysis.
Throughout the 1990s, the environmental assessment work continued at NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler and additional sites were identified at the installation. In 1994, the Navy completed a Site Inspection (SI) that included a radiation screening survey, a soil vapor survey, geological investigations, and environmental sampling. Hazardous substances and petroleum products identified in the 1994 SI report included asbestos, cleaning solvents, waste oil, fuel oils, paint, compressed gases, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) oils, mercury, batteries, and electrical transformers, switches, and capacitors. During the 1994 SI field investigation, an additional material storage and disposal site (Site 3 – Construction Debris Area) was discovered to the west of the former Fire Training Area.
In 1996, paint chip samples collected from the ground within the VLF antenna arrays were found to contain lead and PCBs. In 1997, the Navy began a construction project with the objective of removing lead- and PCB-laden paint and repainting them with contaminant-free orange and white-colored paint. During this repainting project, collection and containment systems were used to minimize the release of paint chips and particle to the environment. This construction project was completed in 2008. By the end of the 1990s, two other sites (Site 4 – VLF Peninsula and a PCB oil spill area located at the South Helix House) were identified on the VLF Area.
In 2002, the Navy and the State of Maine signed an agreement to "determine the nature and extent of contamination and any threat to public health and the environment caused by release or threatened release of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants" associated with Navy operations at NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler. The agreement, titled Administrative Order by Consent, was signed by the Navy on December 3, 2002 and by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on December 13, 2002. The objectives of this agreement are to:
- Determine the nature and extent of contamination and any threat to public health and the environment caused by a release or threatened release of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminates from the site by conducting additional studies;
- Formulate and evaluate alternatives and recommendations for the appropriate extent of remedial actions and implement all remedial actions necessary to prevent or mitigate any actual or potential threats to the public health and the environment that may be posed by hazardous substances present in surface soil, subsurface soil, sediment, surface water, marine environment, and groundwater beneath the site;
- Conduct monitoring at and around the site as necessary to determine the effectiveness of the remedial action(s), and to ensure the protection of the public health and the environment;
- Provide for the expeditious removal of all weathered or peeling paint, which may contain lead, PCBs, or other hazardous substances from the VLF antenna arrays and associated towers in the VLF Area;
- Provide for public input and participation in the remedial process; and
- Provide for payment of past and future response costs incurred at the Cutler facility by Maine DEP.
Following the development and implementation of this agreement, the Navy continued their assessment and restoration efforts at the former Fire Training Area (Site 1), the Salvage Yard Area (Site 2), the Construction Debris Area (Site 3), the VLF Peninsula (Site 4), the South Helix House, and other Areas of Concern (AOCs).
As per the agreement, the Navy conducted a Preliminary Site Assessment (PSA) which included searching historical records and interviewing current and former base personnel concerning the handling and disposal of hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, solid waste, and petroleum. The 2007 PSA report identified 33 AOCs in addition to the four previously identified sites. As recommended in the 2007 PSA report, the Navy conducted additional investigations of these 33 AOCs through the Navy’s Environmental Restoration Program (ERP). As a result of conducting these additional investigations, five of the 33 AOCs were elevated to Installation Restoration (IR) sites. These additional sites include: the Drum Disposal Area (Site 5); Old Fire Training Area Access Road (Site 6); South Helix House (Site 7); Maintenance Building and Shed (Site 8); and Dirt Roads (Site 9). In addition, a former recreational skeet range located on the VLF Area was elevated to a Munitions Response Program (MRP) site and designated as UXO-1 – Former Skeet Range.
More Recent Events
Based on the results of additional research, sampling, testing, and remediation, five of the sites and all 33 AOCs did not required any further assessment or clean up removal actions. The following is a brief summary of their environmental investigation status.
- In 2011, the Construction Debris Area (Site 3) was the first site to be fully restored through the Navy’s ERP. After a series of soil removal actions, a No Further Action Decision Document was finalized and agreed upon by the Navy and Maine DEP.
- In 2012, the Drum Disposal Area (Site 5) was combined with the former Fire Training Area (Site 1) due to their geographical proximity and similar contaminants. As a result of this action, Site 5 was closed and all contamination associated with Site 5 is being addressed under Site 1.
- In June 2016, a Summary Memorandum for Basewide Areas of Concern and Sites was submitted to the Maine DEP. This report summarizes the assessment and remedial activities for the four original sites and the 33 AOCs. Upon review of this report and following a regulatory site inspection of the installation, the Maine DEP agreed with most of the conclusions and recommendations in the Summary Memorandum. On August 1, 2016, the following sites and AOCs were officially designated as closed and requiring no further action:
AOC-1 Former Sludge Spreading Area,
AOC-2 Laydown Area Near N-9 VLF Tower,
AOC-3 Containment Failure at VLF S-4 Tower,
AOC-5 Power Plant Outdoor Electrical Substation,
AOC-6 Tank Farm,
AOC-7 North Helix House,
AOC-8 South Helix House,
AOC-9 Maintenance Building & Shed (Site 8),
AOC-10A Firing Range (Archery Range),
AOC-10C Firing Range (Pistol Range),
AOC-11 South Burrow Pit,
AOC-13 Dirt Roads (Site 9),
AOC-14 North Burrow Pit,
AOC-15 42 VLF Antenna Hoist Houses,
AOC-18 North Helix House – Floor Drains and Sump,
AOC-19 South Helix House – Floor Drains and Sump,
AOC-20 Helix Tunnels – Dielectric Oil, Sumps and Drains,
AOC-21 Pier – Salt Water Intake and Biofouling Coating,
AOC-22 Tank Farm – Valve Room,
AOC-23 Tank Farm – Fire Control House,
ACC-24 Tank Farm – Fuel Stripping House,
AOC-25 Tank Farm – Former Fuel Fill Piping on Pier,
AOC-26 Debris Near Antenna N-1 Area,
AOC-27 High Frequency Area – Paint on Structures,
AOC-28 High Frequency Area – Underground Storage Tanks,
AOC-29 High Frequency Area – Leach Field and Storm Drain,
AOC-30 Fire Station Underground Storage Tank,
AOC-31 Drum Disposal Area (Site 5),
AOC-32 Old Fire Training Area Access Road (Site 6), and
AOC-33 Oil and Grease Disposal Area.
- September 2016, a Technical Memorandum for AOC-4 – T-Deck and Building 100, was submitted to the Maine DEP which recommended no further action for AOC-4. The Maine DEP agreed with the conclusions and recommendation of the report and provided a no further action response letter for AOC 4 dated October 19, 2016.
- September 2017, a Final Site Inspection Report for UXO 1 Former Skeet Range (formerly AOC 10B) was submitted to the Maine DEP which recommended no further action for UXO 1. The Maine DEP agreed with the conclusions and recommendations of the report and provided a no further action response letter for UXO 1 dated November 20, 2017.
- October 2017, a Final Pre-Design Investigation Technical Memorandum for AOC 12 Historic Laydown Area near N-5 was submitted to the Maine DEP which recommended no further action for AOC 12. The Maine DEP agreed with the conclusions and recommendations of the report and provided a no further action response letter for AOC 12 dated November 20, 2017.
- November 2017, a Final Site Inspection Addendum Report for AOC 17 North Helix House - Storage of PCB Oil and Equipment was submitted to the Maine DEP which recommended no further action for AOC 17. The Maine DEP agreed with the conclusions and recommendations of the report and provided a no further action response letter for AOC 17 dated November 20, 2017.
- July 2018, a Final Site Inspection Report for AOC-16 24 VLF Transformer Houses was submitted to the Maine DEP which recommended combining AOC-16 into Site 4 VLF Peninsula. The Maine DEP concurred with the recommendation for AOC 16. The Navy and Maine DEP agreed that contamination specific to AOC 16 (the 24 VLF Transformer Houses), should be combined with Site 4 (VLF Peninsula). Additionally, the location of all of the 24 transformer houses are within the same geographic area designated for remediation under Site 4. As a result of combining AOC 16 with Site 4, the designation AOC 16 should be retired.
The remaining sites (all located on the VLF Area) that require additional assessment and potential remediation at NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler include:
Site 1 Fire Training Area,
Site 2 Salvage Yard Area,
Site 4 VLF Peninsula, and
Site 7 South Helix House (formerly AOC 8).
The Department of Defense (DoD) initially named their program the Installation Restoration Program, which is now referred to as the Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) and instructed the military services to comply with specific guidelines. The ERP is designed to identify, report, and correct environmental deficiencies at DoD installations. The ERP process mirrors the CERCLA process and includes the following steps:
- Preliminary Assessment/Site Investigation (PA/SI): The purpose of the PA/SI is to evaluate the seriousness of any hazardous substance release, or threat of release, and to recommend additional response action at the site. As a result, no action may be taken if available data indicate no threat or potential threat to public health or the environment. Alternatively, the best response action may be an immediate removal of the threat or potential threat. The PA/SI therefore, establishes the priority for scheduling a site inspection by characterizing the site. The PA/SI process at NCTAMS LANT Det Cutler began in the mid-1980s.
- Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS): During this part of the ERP, extensive on-site investigations take place, including physical and analytical monitoring to quantify the extent of the problem and alternatives are developed for possible corrective measures.
- Remedial Design/Remedial Action: The Remedial Design consists of designing the selected remedial system to meet the remedial objectives that are described in the Decision Document (DD) or Record of Decision (ROD). Remedial Action is the actual cleanup work. Remedial Action Construction covers the period of time that the remedial system must operate to achieve cleanup objectives in the DD or ROD. The remedy may include Land Use Controls (LUCs), e.g., fencing, signs, excavation, treatment, disposal, zoning changes, deed restrictions, and/or others ways to limit site access or contain contamination.
Environmental Restoration Program History
In 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) designed to manage the disposal of wastes which were being generated.
In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, requiring identification, investigation and cleanup of sites contaminated by past releases of hazardous substances. In 1986 Congress amended CERCLA to create the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) and its corresponding funding component, the Defense Environmental Restoration Account (DERA). This program is managed by the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) within the Department of Defense (DoD).
The DoD established the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) to address hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants, and military munitions remaining from past activities at military installations and formerly used defense sites (FUDS). Within the DERP, the Installation Restoration Program (IRP) focuses on releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants that pose environmental health and safety risks.
In its earlier years, the DERP focused heavily on the identification, investigation, and cleanup of land impacted by decades of defense operations and training activities. As the program expanded to include historic use of military munitions at its active installations, the program progressed from study to cleanup of industrial remediation of past contamination. In all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 8 U.S. territories, DoD is working to protect citizens and our natural resources by restoring public lands.
DoD has created two distinct programs within the DERP to most effectively address remediation of its sites. The Installation Restoration Program (IRP) primarily addresses sites impacted by hazardous substances. These sites are similar sites across the country contaminated from past practices at industrial and commercial areas, such as municipal landfills and factories. The IRP is a proven program with successes achieved over the past two decades. Through the Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP), DoD can most effectively respond to unexploded ordnance and military munitions waste at areas other than operational ranges. In the coming years, DoD will develop the MMRP to mirror the successes of the IRP.