Naval Weapons Station Yorktown Cheatham Annex (CAX) is located on the site of the former Penniman Shell Loading Plant, which was a large powder- and shell-loading facility operated during World War I. The Penniman facility closed in 1918, and between 1918 and 1943, the property was used for farming or left idle until CAX was commissioned in 1943 as a satellite unit of the Naval Supply Depot to provide bulk storage facilities and serve as an assembly and overseas shipping point throughout World War II. At inception, CAX occupied approximately 3,349 acres. Several portions of the original base have since been declared surplus and transferred to other government jurisdictions, including the National Park Service, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and York County. CAX is currently comprised of 2,300 acres. CAX is divided into two separate parcels, with the larger parcel situated along the banks of the York River. Almost all of the activities at CAX (administration, training, maintenance, support, and housing) take place in this portion of the Installation. The smaller parcel is located south of the Colonial National Historic Parkway. This area contains Jones Pond and is used mainly as a watershed protection area. In July 1987, CAX was designated the Hampton Roads Navy Recreational Complex. Today, the mission of CAX includes supplying Atlantic Fleet ships and providing recreational opportunities to military and civilian personnel.
The first environmental investigation completed at CAX was conducted by the Navy prior to state and federal regulatory oversight of environmental activities at the installation. A Navy Initial Assessment Study was conducted in 1984 and identified 12 potentially contaminated areas. The IAS recommended additional investigation at Sites 1, 9, 10, and 11. In 1998, the Navy, USEPA, and VDEQ performed a site visit and identified five additional potential source areas as AOC6. CAX was included on the National Priorities List in January 2001 with a Hazardous Ranking System score of 48.7. Additional investigations and activities were conducted in 2002. In 2003, the Navy, USEPA and VDEQ agreed that no further action was necessary for some of the sites and a No Further Response Action (NFA) Planned Decision Document for Sites 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 10 was signed. The response complete decision for Site 12 was documented in a 2004 No Further Remedial Action Planned (NFRAP) Decision Document (DD). In 2004, the Navy also identified AOC 7 as an area of concern for desktop audit. This AOC was included in Appendix B of the FFA which was signed in March 2005 and identified the 12 sites and seven AOCs. Sites 1, 4, 7, and 11 are identified in the FFA Findings of Fact for CERCLA implementation with ultimate closure under a Record of Decision. During field investigations in 1999, it was determined that the area thought to be Site 7 was actually a more recent disposal area. The actual location of Site 7 was later identified approximately 500 feet to the north, thus the more recent disposal area was redesignated as AOC 8. In 2006, the Navy initiated investigations of numerous Munitions Response Program sites including the other-than-operation Marine Pistol and Rifle Range at CAX.