Baseline Environmental Monitoring of Groundwater, Surface Water, and Soil at the Ammonium Perchlorate Rocket Motor Destruction Facility at the Letterkenny Army Depot, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 2016

Open-File Report 2019-1094
Prepared in Cooperation with the Letterkenny Army Depot
By:

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Abstract

Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, built an Ammonium Perchlorate Rocket Motor Destruction (ARMD) facility in 2016. The ARMD Facility was designed to centralize rocket motor destruction and contain or capture all waste during the destruction process. Ideally, there would be no contaminant transport to air, soil, or water from the facility, but the Code of Federal Regulations requires that any hazardous waste disposal facility have an environmental monitoring program in place. In a study by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Letterkenny Army Depot, baseline characterization of constituents in groundwater, surface water, and soil was conducted from September to December 2016 to document site conditions prior to the beginning of operations at the facility in January 2017. Groundwater wells, surface water, and soils were sampled monthly during the baseline characterization period. No sediment transport from the site occurred on days when samples were collected from surface-water sites, so no sediment was collected from the retention basin at the facility during the baseline period. Data collected during the baseline period can be compared to data collected in future years to determine whether there is any contaminant transport from the ARMD Facility to the surrounding environment.

During the baseline characterization period, monthly samples were collected from 4 groundwater wells and 9 soil sites near the ARMD Facility. The only surface-water site sampled monthly during the baseline period was upgradient from the facility. There was no streamflow at surface-water sites downgradient from the facility on days when surface-water samples were collected during the baseline characterization period.

Groundwater results for the four wells sampled near the ARMD Facility during the baseline period did not show any major water-quality issues. Mean specific conductance (SC) and pH in groundwater ranged from 220 to 771 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius (μS/cm) and 6.45 to 6.98, respectively. No constituents in groundwater samples exceeded any U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). Dissolved iron (Fe) was the only groundwater constituent that exceeded a Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) established by the EPA. The SMCL for Fe is 300 micrograms per liter (μg/L); samples from three wells had mean dissolved Fe concentrations ranging from 1,100 to 2,600 μg/L. The only volatile organic compounds (VOCs) detected in groundwater samples were bromomethane, acetone, and chloromethane. All VOC detections in groundwater samples were less than the Reporting Detection Levels (RDLs). These three compounds also were detected in blank samples submitted for groundwater samples. Perchlorate was not detected in any groundwater sample collected during the baseline period.

Surface-water data collected during the baseline period were strictly representative of a stream reach upgradient from the ARMD Facility. Stream discharge ranged from 0.03 to 0.08 cubic feet per second during sample collection. The mean SC and pH were 310 μS/cm and 7.6, respectively. No EPA established MCLs or SMCLs were exceeded for any constituents in samples collected from this upgradient stream. Some VOCs were detected in surface water at less than the RDLs. The VOCs detected in surface water were generally the same VOCs as those detected at less than the RDLs for groundwater. Perchlorate was detected in each sample collected from the stream; the mean concentration was 0.07 μg/L. All perchlorate results were less than the RDL of 0.2 μg/L.

Soil samples collected during the baseline period did not have any constituent concentrations that exceeded any medium-specific concentrations (MSC) or soil screening levels (SSL) established by either the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or the EPA. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania calculates MSCs based on either a function of acceptable concentrations in groundwater or based on health concerns if the soil is directly contacted. The EPA derives acceptable concentrations of constituents (SSLs) in soil based on standardized equations combining exposure information assumptions with EPA toxicity data. The EPA calculates SSLs for residential and industrial sites. Soil sites at the ARMD Facility were considered “industrial” for comparative purposes. There was at least one order of magnitude difference between any inorganic constituent concentration detected in soil and the MSC and (or) SSL for that constituent. Four VOCs were detected in soil samples collected during the baseline period. None of the VOCs detected in the soils were within three orders of magnitude of any established MSCs or SSLs. The VOCs detected in soil were dichloromethane (also known as methylene chloride), methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), tetrachloroethene, and acetone (only detected once). Dichloromethane was the only VOC detected at greater than the RDLs; concentrations in all soil samples were greater than the RDLs. Dichloromethane concentrations ranged from 1.9 to 50.1 micrograms per kilogram (μg/kg). MTBE was detected in 50 percent of samples collected but all results were less than the RDLs of 1.7 to 2.6 μg/kg. Tetrachloroethene was detected in 20 percent of soil samples collected, with a maximum estimated value of 1.5 μg/kg. Inorganic constituents with the highest concentrations in soil were Fe and aluminum (Al); mean Fe and Al concentrations ranged from 28,700 to 52,400 and 10,300 to 19,800 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg), respectively. Data collected during the baseline period in 2016 can be compared to future data to determine whether concentrations in water and soils surrounding the facility have shown any changes that could be caused by the facility operation.

Suggested Citation

Galeone, D.G., 2019, Baseline environmental monitoring of groundwater, surface water, and soil at the Ammonium Perchlorate Rocket Motor Destruction Facility at the Letterkenny Army Depot, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 2016: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2019–1094, 32 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20191094.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Design and Methods
  • Baseline Characterization Data
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1
  • Appendix 2
  • Appendix 3
  • Appendix 4

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Baseline environmental monitoring of groundwater, surface water, and soil at the Ammonium Perchlorate Rocket Motor Destruction Facility at the Letterkenny Army Depot, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 2016
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2019-1094
DOI 10.3133/ofr20191094
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Pennsylvania Water Science Center
Description Report: vii; 32 p.; Appendices 1-4
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Franklin County
City Chambersburg
Other Geospatial Letterkenny Army Depot
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y