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New Hanover Cnty Airport Burn Pit

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Air sparging wells at the New Hanover County Airport Burn Pit site.

Additional Resources
Site Summary Profile
EPA ID: NCD981021157
Location: Wilmington, New Hanover County, NC
Lat/Long: 34.275000, -077.915280
Congressional District: 07
NPL Status: Proposed: 06/24/88; Final: 03/31/89
Affected Media: Ground water
Cleanup Status: Construction Complete – Physical cleanup activities have been completed.
Human Exposure Under Control: Yes
Groundwater Migration Under Control: Yes
Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use: No
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: None
Site Manager: Beverly Stepter (stepter.beverly@epa.gov)


Current Site Status

The New Hanover County Airport Burn Pit site includes an area where firefighters used a burn pit for training purposes. EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989 because of contaminated ground water resulting from operations and waste handling practices. EPA, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), and the site’s potentially responsible parties (PRPs) have investigated site conditions and taken steps to clean up the site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. Site contamination does not currently threaten people living and working near the site. By monitoring ground water and undertaking Five-Year Reviews, EPA, NCDENR and the site’s PRPs continue to protect people and the environment from site contamination.

Site Location and Background

The 4-acre site is located on Gardener Drive in Wilmington, New Hanover County, North Carolina. The site includes a 1,500-square-foot burn pit located near the center of the site. The Wilmington International Airport, also known as the New Hanover County International Airport, borders the site to the north, south and east. Railroad tracks, Blue Clay Road and a wooded area border the site to the west. The nearest residence is located 1,100 feet west of the site, in a residential area across Blue Clay Road. The site’s broader surroundings include commercial, industrial and residential land uses. Residential areas include some low-income residents.

During World War II, the site operated as a military hospital. The dates of the original burn pit operations are unknown. From 1968 until 1979, parties used a second burn pit at the site for firefighter training purposes. Parties burned jet fuel, gasoline, petroleum storage tank bottoms, fuel oil, kerosene and sorbent materials from oil spill cleanups in the pit. Firefighters used 100 to 500 gallons of ignitable fuel for each training exercise. The exercises used water as the primary fire extinguishing agent. However, exercises also used carbon dioxide and dry chemicals. In 1985, New Hanover County found contamination in sludge in the pit. In 1989, EPA listed the site on the NPL. In the 1990s, the site’s PRPs conducted cleanup activities to address soil contamination. The site is not in use. The site can support commercial and light industrial uses.  

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Threats and Contaminants

Site investigations found contamination in ground water that could potentially harm people in the area. Contamination resulted from operations and waste handling practices at the site. Contaminants of concern include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - (benzene, ethylbenzene, chloroform, 1,2-dichloroethane) - lead and chromium.

Contamination affected approximately nine million gallons of ground water. Ground water contamination remains within the site boundary. Following soil cleanup activities in the 1990s, EPA considered only ground water a threat to people and the environment. 

Fencing surrounds the site and limit access.

The site’s PRPs considered children’s health issues as part of the site’s risk assessment.

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Investigation and Cleanup Responsibility / Oversight

The site’s PRPs led site investigation and cleanup activities, with oversight provided by EPA and NCDENR.

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Site Cleanup Plan

In 1993, EPA issued a cleanup plan (a Record of Decision, or ROD) for the site. The plan included the following activities:

In 2000, EPA issued an amendment to the cleanup plan (a ROD Amendment) to include the use of air sparging (PDF) (2 pp, 130K, About PDF) as part of site cleanup activities.

Summaries of site cleanup approaches are also available online in key site cleanup documents, including the ROD.

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Cleanup Progress

In 1999, the site’s PRPs completed collecting additional ground water data.

In 2000, the PRPs installed additional wells and resampled monitoring wells at the site.

In 2002, the PRPs began monitoring ground water semi-annually.

The site’s first Five-Year Review, completed in 2008, found that the cleanup continues to protect people and the environment.

Summaries of cleanup activities are also available in the Five-Year Review online.

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Enforcement Activities

EPA negotiated legal agreements with the site’s PRPs to investigate and clean up the site. The PRPs continue to fund site cleanup, monitoring and oversight activities.

The ROD and Five-Year Review online provide additional information on specific legal agreements for the site.

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Community Involvement

EPA has worked with the community and its state partner to develop a long-term cleanup plan for the site, reflecting the Agency’s commitment to safe, healthy communities and environmental protection. Community engagement and public outreach are core components of EPA program activities.

EPA has conducted a range of community involvement activities to solicit community input and to make sure the public remains informed about site activities throughout the cleanup process. Outreach efforts have included public notices, interviews and public meetings.

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Future Work

Ground water monitoring is ongoing.

EPA and the site’s PRPs are working to delete the site from the NPL.

EPA completed the last Five-Year Review in 2008 and plans to complete the next Five-Year Review in 2013.

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Additional Information

EPA keeps additional site documents and information in a site information repository at the location below. EPA also posts site documents, when available, on EPA’s CERCLIS Site Profile page. For documents not available on the website, please contact the Region 4 Freedom of Information Office.

Site Repository

New Hanover County Public Library
210 Chestnut Street
Wilmington, NC 28410

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