In what appears to be the first-ever RCRA § 7003 “imminent and substantial endangerment” order for vapor intrusion, US EPA Region 4 issued an order yesterday for the US Army to take expedited corrective measures at the former Fort Gillem site in Forest Park, Georgia. The former Fort’s primary missions, which lasted from the 1940s until the base was closed in 2011 under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) V, were training and materiel supply from World War II through the Persian Gulf conflict. As a result, the US EPA alleges that these activities resulted in soil, sediment, surface water, and groundwater contamination. Specifically, the US EPA alleges:
- off-site surface water, groundwater, and soil gas contamination by volatile organic compounds, particularly trichloroethene (TCE), tetrachloroethene and 1, 1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, originating from various Installation Restoration Program sites;
- “[r]elatively large contaminated groundwater plumes” with maximum concentrations exceeding 100 times the maximum contaminant level under the Safe Drinking Water Act; and
- the migration of TCE and other contaminants in groundwater beyond the Site boundary into the adjoining residential neighborhoods.
The work required by the Order, among other things: (i) would evaluate whether indoor and/or ambient air in residential and other properties surrounding the former installation contains hazardous contaminants and, if necessary, require that the Army mitigate unacceptable risks; and (ii) would identify and evaluate all private drinking water wells and springs in the area for hazardous contaminants and, if necessary, would require that the Army mitigate unacceptable risks.
In its press release, the US EPA recognizes that the US Army has been studying indoor air vapor intrusion at the Site, but the US EPA is “concerned at the service’s failure to implement the expeditious mitigation measures that are revealed by the study to be warranted for numerous residents.” Because “the Army has significantly deviated from the approved study work plan,” the US EPA “deems it necessary” to issue this RCRA § 7003 order.