'Emerging contaminant' found at Joint Base Cape Cod

By GEORGE BRENNAN | Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass. | Published: February 13, 2014

CAMP EDWARDS — The same chemical fouling drinking water in Eastham has been detected in monitoring wells for the Upper Cape military base, but not at levels that are considered a health risk, base and environmental officials said.

Rose Forbes, a project manager for Air Force Civil Engineer Center, told the Joint Base Cape Cod Cleanup Team Wednesday the Air Force began testing in October for 1,4-dioxane, an emerging contaminant that's considered a probable human carcinogen.

Tests thus far have detected the chemical, a solvent found in antifreeze, dyes, shampoos and cosmetics, at levels below the state's guideline of 0.3 micrograms per liter, Forbes said. Detections were found both inside and outside the base boundaries in Falmouth and Bourne, she said.

There is concern that low levels of 1,4-dioxane have been detected in water already treated for other contaminants and the system "might be spreading it into new areas" in the effluent, she said.

The Air Force will continue to sample for 1,4-dioxane and report findings to environmental regulators to determine the extent of the "emerging contaminant" at the base, she said.

Meanwhile, environmental regulators and the Army's Impact Area Groundwater Study Program reported that more than a dozen small arm ranges have been mostly cleared of the lead, copper, tungsten and antimony after 16 years of excavating and sifting bullets out of berms.

The military has been working to remove the metals since since 1998, Lynne Jennings, cleanup team leader for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said.

EPA is in the midst of a 30-day comment period for its remedies for those ranges. The agency is recommending continued monitoring of the groundwater with no need to treat the water beneath the ranges, Jennings said.

Sixteen of the ranges remain unused but have been cleaned, Ben Gregson, project manager for the Army cleanup program, said. Some 56 tons of lead bullets were removed from berms and 36,000 tons of soil have been treated, he said.

On seven ranges where tungsten was found in elevated levels, 3,500 tons of soil was disposed of off-site, Gregson said. Once considered a so-called green bullet, the Massachusetts National Guard stopped shooting tungsten in 2006 after traces of it were found in the groundwater beneath the base.

Six base ranges are still in use. On those ranges, Guard soldiers shoot into specialized systems that capture bullets to keep the lead and copper from leaching into the soil.

Comments on the remedies will be accepted by the EPA through March 5. Those comments can be emailed to

melanson.kate@epa.gov or sent by mail to Kate Melanson, US EPA Region 1, 5 Post Office Square Suite 100, Boston, MA 02109-3912

In other news, the cleanup team also learned that the EPA is receiving $256,000 from W.R. Grace, part of a $63 million settlement made by the chemical company responsible for contamination at sites across the country. While W.R. Grace didn't have any actual affiliation with the base, it took ownership of a company that was determined to be responsible for a fuel spill there, Jennings said.

The money is being put into a special account along with other settlement funds to be used for future oversight of the cleanup programs at Joint Base Cape Cod, she said.


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