- Company: Charter Contracting Company, LLC
- Industry: Water/Wastewater
- Location: Boston, Massachusetts
- Expected Completion Date: December 3, 2014
- Project Website
The GSA Property Remedial Action in Watertown, MA represents a milestone achievement in the collaborative effort to remediate and repurpose an industrial contaminated federal property for public use. As the first Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) to transition from Federal to Local ownership, this project transformed a 13 acre radioactive WWII site into an essential community greenspace and wetlands habitat, providing recreational areas, flood mitigation, and wildlife conservation.
Acquired by the Army in 1920, the GSA Property was used for storing and burning hazardous materials, depleted uranium, machined chips, and turnings from the Manhattan Project. The buildings and grounds remained unoccupied, deteriorated, and highly contaminated, creating a safety hazard for nearby residents. Watertown City Councilors described the property as “a desolate area of crumbling cinder block buildings and overgrown wetlands surrounded by chainlink fence.” Through a Design-Build process that incorporated feedback from regular community updates and meetings, the project team used innovative remediation strategies to replace graffiti covered buildings, radioactive materials, and PCB soils with a healthy wetlands habitat and public park for the people of Watertown.
The significance of this long-term brownfields project became evident during the Ribbon Cutting ceremony when Glenn Rotando, GSA’s Regional Commissioner, was able to announce the project’s success and the keeping of a historic promise, “In 1920, the US Army acquired this site from the state of Massachusetts with the promise to return it to the state when it was no longer needed. Now, 94 years later, the property is being returned. Job well done everyone.”
What impact does this project have on America?
The hazardous condition of the GSA Property was referred to as a “liability” in a 2009 letter from two State Representatives urging the USACE and DCR to heed the requests of Watertown residents and “take all steps necessary to achieve a thorough remediation of the property.” Their public outcry was echoed by city councilors and committee chairs who wrote “If you drive north on Greenough Blvd between Arsenal Street and Cambridge, the Charles River will be on your right but to the left is the GSA Site, a desolate area of crumbling cinder block buildings and overgrown wetlands surrounded by chainlink fence. What a mess!”
After 94 years of federal ownership and 35 years of pressure from Watertown officials on behalf of their constituents, the political and financial conditions aligned to support the project, achieve remediation goals, and return the site to DCR ownership where it would “fit into the DCR’s Charles River unit” and create a greenspace corridor in the heart of the city, according to Michael Misslin, Chief Engineer with the DCR. In order to successfully complete the GSA Property Remedial Action, the GSA, DCR, MassDEP, USACE, Charter, Nobis, and most importantly, the local community, all worked together to develop solutions and achieve results. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Gary S. Moran, Deputy Commissioner at MassDEP stated “this was a complicated site that wouldn’t have been possible without teamwork”. His sentiment was supported by Marylouise McDermot, Conservation Commission Chair who said “On behalf of the Commission, I would like to express our thanks for the efforts expended to make the GSA site one that we can all be proud of”.
What interesting obstacles or unusual circumstances did you overcome to complete the project?
Throughout the project, Charter worked with stakeholders to overcome challenges and generate solutions that kept the project on track, combining design and construction capabilities to optimize project sequencing and resource allocation. The project team overcame the following obstacles while continuously refining aspects of the design, saving 11 months on the project schedule: • Implemented an alternative strategy to demolishing five unstable, asbestos containing buildings that prevented disturbance of radioactive materials and contained asbestos materials
- • Screened, managed, and disposed of unanticipated radioactive materials including a B25 radioactive waste container and a radioactive water treatment system
- • Discovered a 1,000gal underground storage tank that contained a 55gal drum of Sodium Arsenite Solution that required disposal at a specialized facility in Canada
- • Self-performed 500gpm PCB water treatment system construction and operation
- • Installed a multi-layer pervious PCB soil cap while sampling in other areas was still determining final cap design and final delineation of compensatory wetlands replication
- • Disposed of TSCA hazardous PCB soils using highly regulated rail transportation
- • Applied stabilization treatment to TCLP metals hazardous soils to allow cost-effective disposal
- • Constructed a spillway that connected wetlands areas to a nearby brook to mitigate flood damage to houses and roads
- • Installed an emergent wetland island, specialized wetland plantings, and walking path for the future DCR Park.
What dangers and risks did you encounter, and describe any extraordinary methods used to keep workers safe?
The GSA Property was used during World War II during the Manhattan Project to store hazardous materials and burn depleted uranium. Due to the presence of radioactive, hazardous, and universal wastes, project personnel followed strict protocols in accordance with the site-specific Health & Safety Plan and Activity Hazard Analysis. The site was delineated into work zones including the Exclusion Zone, Contamination Reduction Zone, and Support Zone, ensuring that personnel donned proper personal protective equipment when entering the Exclusion Zone and performed decontamination procedures when exiting. During the work, personnel protective equipment was upgraded or downgraded based on the results of continuous air monitoring results and radioactivity screening levels.
Due to the instability of the five existing buildings, each required an alternate abatement plan to remove asbestos containing materials (ACM) from the outside using a specialized grapple and wetting procedures. As ACM was removed from the buildings and surrounding areas, project personnel double bagged and loaded each item into lined containers for off-site transportation and disposal. During sampling and analysis of the buildings, the team identified potentially radioactive materials. Working with USACE and MassDEP, a plan was developed to monitor, screen, handle, and manage low-level radioactive materials including a B25 box and a radioactive water treatment system. Charter screened site personnel, materials, soils, and trucks for radioactivity.
While the radioactive management plan was under review, Charter maintained the project schedule by surgically demolishing individual building components without disturbing radioactive areas. Working with regulatory agencies, the project team developed multiple regulatory documents for approaching, handling, and disposing of contaminated wastes from the GSA Property including the Land Use Control Implementation Plan. A total of 7,600 hours were worked on-site with no lost time incidents.
How did you leverage new technologies to work faster and reduce waste?
ONLINE FILE SHARING
The project team used electronic file sharing and email broadcasts to provide stakeholders and the public with updates. Five public meetings were held throughout the project to encourage community participation, allowing attendees to ask questions and learn about the status of the project. A paperless file sharing program was implemented to distribute monthly updates and project plans to members of the public. This online distribution system allowed project details and progress reports to be shared seamlessly among team members, stakeholders, and residents, allowing the team to work more efficiently to a shared common goal. Information was also distributed through email notices and website posts.
CAP DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Using new technologies in the field, the Charter reduced the project schedule by concurrently performing PCB soil cap design and construction. As sampling and analysis continued to increase the cap limits at one end, Charter began cap construction at the other. An orange 6oz nonwoven geotextile marker layer was selected to improve soil cover water storage, prevent runoff/flooding, and protect against future disturbance in accordance with Activity Use Limitations. The increased size of the PCB soil cap also meant a larger compensatory wetland needed to be constructed. The project team designed and installed a wetlands meadow that tied into the main wetlands area and the brook spillway, creating additional flood mitigation.
ON-SITE SOIL TREATMENT
Charter self-performed on-site treatment of PCB impacted water and lead hazardous soils. Design, construction, and operation of the 500 gpm system included weirs tanks, carbon vessels, bag filters, sampling and analysis, and off-site disposal of treated water. Charter successfully treated all groundwater, surface water, and decontamination wash water with no exceedances in contaminant levels. During soil characterization, Charter discovered two TCLP Lead Hot spots. After additional sampling efforts to delineate these Hot-Spots, Charter performed treatment in-situ using Enviroblend to reduce the classification from hazardous to non-hazardous, resulting in a substantial cost savings for material disposal and a reduced environmental impact.