washington navy yard


The Navy has always owned WNY, the Navy’s oldest shore station and the oldest continuously operated federal facility in the United States. It was established on October 2, 1799, as a shipbuilding yard on land set aside by a presidential order (EPA, 1999). WNY is located on approximately 63 acres in southeastern Washington, DC. At its largest, WNY occupied approximately 129 acres. After World War II (WWII), WNY’s role began to shift from primarily manufacturing to administration, which gradually resulted in the need for fewer facilities and less land. In the early 1960s, 63 acres were sold to the General Services Administration (GSA) for the Southeast Federal Center (SEFC). WNY’s original mission was the construction and maintenance of naval vessels. The prevalent activities at WNY from its establishment were industrial development and ordnance production. Ordnance production became WNY’s mission by the 1860s. By WWII, the Yard served as the primary naval ordnance plant. The weapons designed and built there were used in every war in which the United States fought until the 1960s. At its peak, WNY consisted of 188 buildings and employed nearly 25,000 people. Small components for optical systems and enormous 16-inch battleship guns were all manufactured there. In December 1945, the Navy Yard was renamed the U.S. Naval Gun Factory. In 1959, WNY was re-designated the United States Naval Weapons Plant. After WWII, administrative activities continued to replace industrial work as the primary function of the facility. Some industrial activities continued for some years after WWII until finally being phased out in 1961. In July 1962, the installation became the Washington Navy Yard Annex. On 1 July 1964, it reverted to its traditional name of Washington Navy Yard. The deserted factory buildings began to be converted to office use.2 Simultaneous with WNY’s development, additional property was added by filling a shallow embayment of the Anacostia River. The source of the material used to fill the embayment was not documented. Archival records indicate that the hulls of five ships scuttled during the 1812 British invasion are buried in the fill material. Cannons have been found during excavations, and a small quantity of elemental mercury was found and removed. Currently, WNY consists of administrative, supply, and storage buildings; residences; training facilities; and museums. Many former industrial and storage buildings have been converted to office buildings. Several buildings were renovated for office space to accommodate approximately 4,000 employees who, in 2001, were reassigned to WNY from leased offices in northern Virginia. Site 1—Building 22 (Lead and Brass Foundry) Site 1 comprises a multistoried brick building, Building 22, and the soils directly adjacent to it. Surrounding areas consist of pavement, concrete and other buildings. It is the location of a former foundry for the manufacture of brass cannons, shells, and shot. Other machinery has also been constructed where Building 22 currently is located. Activity locations here included a 6-inch-gun shop, miscellaneous shops, an erecting shop, a general machine shop, and a laundry facility. Based on historical and current processes and suspected past waste disposal practices, residues from the processes listed above may have contributed to the contamination of the soil surrounding Building 22. Historically, it is known that heavy metals were used in ordnance production. Solvents, such as carbon tetrachloride, also were used for cleaning. Cyanide and phenols were used for cooling, and solvents and metals (lead, chromium, cadmium, and antimony) were used for paint spraying. Perchloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride,dichloroethene, and vinyl chloride may be associated with laundry facility processes (EPA, 1999). Analytes of interest (AOIs) at this site are metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), and cyanide. Site 2—Buildings 33, 33a, 36, 37, 39, and 109 Quadrangle (Gun Carriage Shop) Site 2 consists of Buildings 33, 33a, 36, 37, 39, and 109—known as the Quadrangle Complex. The surrounding areas consist of pavement, concrete, and other buildings. The Quadrangle Complex is believed to be the original machine shop location at WNY and was constructed in phases between 1854 and 1860 with the exception of Building 37, which was constructed in 1899 as a toilet. The buildings were then used primarily as storage facilities for the Navy Exchange System and WNY Supply Department until the 1990s, when all of the Site 2 Quadrangle Complex buildings were fully gutted and renovated within the original building footprints. A battery shop, containing automotive-type batteries, was believed to be located in former Building 33a in a small cinderblock addition to Building 33. The FFA formerly identified the presence of an acid room and flammable storage area in Building 33a. This information was not confirmed by recent historical research of the Quadrangle Complex performed by the naval historian. Potential hazardous substances associated with general machine shop operations may be assumed to include solvents, such as carbon tetrachloride, and metals used in paint-spraying may have contributed to the soil and groundwater contamination. AOIs at this site are metals and VOCs. Site 3—Buildings 40 and 41 (Gun and Metal Plating Shop) Site 3, a sloped, grassy area, is the former location of Buildings 40 and 41. The surrounding areas consist of pavement, concrete, and other buildings. Electroplating was performed in Building 41 in the 1950s using equipment that consisted of three deep plating pits (one 75 feet deep and two 69 feet deep) for the longer gun barrels and a number of plating and other storage tanks These pits were believed to be filled with rubble or granular material. Additionally, underground rooms beneath Dahlgren Avenue were left in place after the demolition of Buildings 40 and 41. Through the years, Buildings 40 and 41 were transformed from a gun shop to a plating shop, and then to offices before demolition in 1977. Typically, a large variety of heavy metals, acids, cleaners, and caustics were used during plating operations. These materials may have contributed to the soil contamination at Site 3. The Fire Control School operated here, providing training in the operation and aiming of naval guns (not training in fighting fires). AOIs at this site are metals, VOCs, and cyanide. Site 4—Buildings 44, 46, 67, and 108 (Cartridge Case Shop) Site 4 includes Buildings 44, 46, 108, 67, and the adjacent soil. The buildings are multistoried, brick structures. The surrounding areas consist of pavement, concrete, and other buildings. Building 46 was used as a copper-rolling mill, cartridge-case shop, metal pressings shop, Navy Exhibit Center, offices, and warehouse. Currently, it contains the Navy Exhibit Center, shop, and warehouse. Building 46 also contained waste channels, scale pits, and various other pits under the flooring. Building 108 was originally used in 1872 as an anchor and faggoting shop. It also was used for a cartridge-case shop, chemical laboratory, seamen shop, offices, and storage. Based on the historical operational processes associated with it, residues from solvents, phenols, and metals may be present. An industrial sewer line (designated as a river water line), apparently for conveying industrial waste, ran north-south between Buildings 108 and 67). Building 67 can be traced back to 1898 and was used as a cartridge-case shop, primer shop, furnace room, metal pressings shop, storage, and Navy Exchange Center. Acid pits were also located in its northern portion AOIs at this site are metals and SVOCs. Site 5—Building 73 (Gun Mount, Metal-Cleaning, and Fabricating Shop) Site 5 includes Building 73 and adjacent soils. Building 73 is a multistoried brick building. Surrounding areas include pavement, concrete, and other buildings. Activity at this location can be traced to 1845, when an ordnance laboratory was established. WNY’s 1872 plan shows the area as a vacant lot. The 1898 plan indicates underground storage tanks (USTs) on this site. Building 73 was constructed during 1901 and 1902 and used as a specialized gun-mount shop. It also was utilized as a secondary mount shop, roughing shop, erecting shop annex, broadside mount shop annex, Shop 28 Annex 2, aluminum-cleaning facility, welding and fabricating shop, storage, snack bar, and supply department. The aluminum-cleaning facility contained 10 aboveground tanks storing iridite and alkaline for etching, degreasing tanks with sump pumps, deoxidizer tanks, and tanks of non-etching-related alkaline AOIs at this site are metals, VOCs, and SVOCs. It is known that solvents, phenols, and metals were historically used in cleaning, cooling, and paint-spraying activities. A variety of wastes could have been generated from processes when the building was used as an aluminum cleaning facility and may have contributed contamination to the soil and groundwater at Site 5. Site 6—Buildings 116, 118, and 197 (Heating and Former Power Plant, Gun Assembly Shop) Site 6 includes Buildings 197, 116, and 118 and adjacent soils. The buildings are multistoried brick structures, and the surrounding areas consist of pavement, concrete, and other buildings. Before construction of Building 197, an old scale pit, a fuel oil tank, Building 126, Building 127, and Building 150 were scheduled to be removed to facilitate the placement of the building’s foundation. A gun pit was installed in the building’s northern end, 12 feet below the ground-floor level. It was used as a gun assembly shop and is currently abandoned. It is known that solvents such as carbon tetrachloride were used for cleaning, and metals (lead, chromium, cadmium, and antimony) were used in paint-spraying operations. Fuel oils, greases, metals, and solvents may have contributed to the contamination found in the soil and/or groundwater at Site 6. The area of Buildings 116 and 118 can be traced back to 1904 as it was gradually filled in with material of unknown composition before 1902. The two buildings were constructed shortly after 1904. Building 116 has operated as the boiler house since its construction and Building 118 operated as WNY power plant. An ash sedimentation pit was located south of Building 116 and later converted to a coal storage area. AOIs at this site are metals, SVOCs, and VOCs. In addition to the AOIs (metals, SVOCs, and VOCs) specified in the RCRA Consent Order and the FFA for Site 6, PCBs and dioxins and furans are considered as AOIs for Site 6. Site 7—Building 126 (Laundry) Site 7 includes Building 126, a multistoried brick structure, and the adjacent soils. Surrounding areas consist of pavement, concrete, and other buildings. This site was used as the receiving station laundry from 1938 through 1950. Offices and the Naval Command System Support Activity also used this site. According to the FFA, solvents (perchloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, dichloroethene, and vinyl chloride) associated with dry cleaning processes may have contributed contamination to the soil and groundwater at Site 7; however, it has since been determined that no dry cleaning activities were performed at Building 126. Based on recent historical information contained in the Building 126 Literature Search it was determined that the building was used only as a laundry, housing clothes washers and dryers. Site 9—Buildings 219 and 220 (Gauge and Chemical Laboratory) Site 9 includes Buildings 219 and 220 and the adjacent soils. Both buildings are multistoried brick structures. Surrounding areas consist of grass, pavement, concrete, and other buildings. Building 219 was used as a gauge laboratory and machine shop from 1944 to 1962. The building also operated as offices, a chemical laboratory, and the home of the Naval Weapons Quality Assurance Officer. As stated in the FFA, mercury, a material associated with typical gauge laboratories, may have been released in Building 219 and may have affected the underlying soils due to the presence of porous wooden floors within the building; however, recent historical research indicates that the Building 219 floors consisted of a concrete floor underneath the wooden floor. Therefore, a porous wooden floor does not exist at Building 219. AOIs at this site are metals and cyanide. Site 10—Admiral’s Row (Flag, Captain, and Visiting Officer Housing) Admiral’s Row is the designation given to a group of buildings located along Warrington Avenue that are currently used to house naval officers and their families and include Quarters A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, K, L, M, M-1, N, O, P, R, S,T, U, V, W, and Y; Buildings 1, 59, and 61; and Leutze Park. These are multistoried residences with adjacent areas consisting of grass, pavement, concrete, and other buildings. Maintenance of these buildings with lead-based paints, lead roofing materials, and lead water mains is believed to be the source of lead-contaminated soil. The AOI at this site is lead. Site 11—Incinerators (Former Incinerators) Site 11 consists of two former incinerators located in the southeastern corner of the Building 166 parking lot. The removal of the two incinerators and associated structures (watch house and footings) appears to have been completed to a depth of 12 inches. The materials incinerated were classified materials consisting of paper, cellophane, film, and Mylar. The site is presently used as a parking area. AOIs at this site are dioxins, SVOCs, and metals. Site 12—Stormwater Lines from Site 4 to Outfall 5 (Deleted from List) Site 12 consisted of the stormwater line running from the area of Site 4 to Outfall 5. Material that accumulated in this pipe contained elevated levels of heavy metals, PAHs, and PCBs. The potential source of this contaminated material may have included past releases from Site 4. For the remainder of this document, Site 12 is considered to be a part of Site 4. Site 13—Building 290 (Electrical Equipment) Site 13 includes Building 290 and the soil adjacent to it. It is located south of Admiral’s Row and north of Buildings 40 and 41. It was suspected to house PCB-containing equipment in the past; however, it does not presently house PCB-containing equipment. PCBs have been found in the soil. AOIs at this site are PCBs. Site 14—Building 292 (Electrical Equipment) Site 14 includes Building 292 and the adjacent soils. Building 292 is a small, single-story brick structure. Surrounding areas consist of paved parking and other brick buildings. It previously housed a PCB-containing portable generator. The leaking generator is believed to have contaminated the soils. No PCBs are presently housed there. Analytical results on a standing water sample from the Building 292 basement did not indicate detectable concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes; pesticides; or PCBs. Only low levels of total petroleum hydrocarbons were detected AOIs at this site are PCBs and metals. Site 15—Stormwater Lines from Site 6 to Outfall 10 (Deleted from List) Site 15 consists of the stormwater line running from the area of Site 6 to Outfall 10. Material that accumulated in this pipe contained elevated levels of levels PCB, PAHs, and metals in concentrations above EPA screening criteria. The potential sources of this contaminated material may have included Site 6 and offsite contaminated soil from the SEFC, currently operated by GSA. For the remainder of this document, Site 15 is considered to be a part of Site 6. Site 16—Building 71 (Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Station) The area defined as Site 16 is located in the south-central portion of WNY, adjacent to the Anacostia River. Site 16 encompasses Building 71 and its current and former USTs, several monitoring wells, stormwater lines traversing the site, and an area where a small quantity (estimated at less than 1 cup) of free-phase mercury was discovered in the subsurface. The stormwater lines that run through the site terminate at Outfalls 5 and 6. The petroleum portion of this site has since been removed from the ER Program and is being addressed under the UST Program. Site 17—Building 201 (Automotive Maintenance Facility) This site includes former Building 201 and the adjacent soils. Former Building 201 was a two-story concrete and brick building. It was constructed as a maintenance facility for automotive equipment and official government cars. Building 201 was investigated because of past and current public works operations. Miscellaneous operations are suspected of contributing to the contamination found in site soil and groundwater. AOIs at this site are VOCs, pesticides, metals, PCBs, and SVOCs. Building 201 and adjacent Buildings 198 and 142 were demolished around 1999 and a new four-story office building (new Building 201) was constructed in their places. Site 21—Buildings 68, 123, 130, 133, 154, 224, and 246 (Ship Repair Department) The Ship Repair Department (initially identified as SSA 3) consists of existing and previously existing Buildings 68, 123, 130, 133, 154, 224, and 246; Wharf No. 1; the marine railway; and Slip No. 1. The department overhauled and repaired small craft such as tugboats, barges, yachts, tenders, pile drivers, lighters, floats, derricks, and patrol vessels. The Ship Repair Department generally operated from the late 1890s to approximately 1980. SSA 3 was elevated to ER site status in 2006. AOIs for this SSA are metals, SVOCs, and VOCs. Site 22—Building 112 (Polishing and Plating Shop) Building 112 was constructed in 1903 and served as the Seaman Gunner’s Repair and Storehouse. Operations such as light machining, benchwork, and light motor overhaul and assembly were likely conducted here. It was converted to an electroplating plant in the 1920s in support of the manufacture of naval guns. Operations included plating with chromium, cadmium, nickel, copper, lead, tin, gold, and silver. Pickling, parkerizing, and polishing operations were conducted in the building in addition to plating. Since the 1920s, it has housed the Navy Band and has operated as a storage facility. AOIs for this site are metals, VOCs, and cyanide. This site was initially identified as SSA 8. In 2006, the WNY Tier 1 Partnering Team concluded that additional investigation at SSA 8 was appropriate because of recent renovation/activities at Building 112 (that is, SSA 8) that revealed elevated chromium levels in the soil in May 2004. Therefore it was recommended that SSA 8 become an ER site (Site 22). Site 23—Building 76 (Breech Mechanism Shop) Building 76 (initially identified as SSA 10) was constructed in 1899 as a Breech Mechanism Shop. It generally served as a large machine shop and included the manufacturing and assembling operations of breech mechanisms for guns. Manufacturing operations ceased in 1961. After extensive renovations, during which the original flooring was removed, the building began serving as the Navy Museum. Building 76 was originally listed as a potential AOC, but after further review of the building history, the building was assigned as SSA 10. SSA investigation activities identified potential unacceptable risks related to PAHs in the soil. As a result, the SSA was elevated to ER Site status as Site 23 in 2006. AOIs for this site are metals, SVOCs, and VOCs. Site 24—Quarters U, Building 172, and Former Buildings 185 and 261 Site 24 (initially identified as SSA 14), Building 172 (where former Buildings 185 and 261 were located), was associated with the historical Experimental Ammunition Unit and Mine Laboratory activities. Quarters U was constructed as a Mine Building Annex in 1937 and was one of several buildings that constituted the Experimental Ammunition Unit and Mine Laboratory that was established at WNY between 9th Street and 11th Street in 1919. Initially, the Experimental Ammunition Unit and Mine Laboratory included Buildings 172, 185, and 261, as well as two small dwellings that were originally occupied by private citizens, until the Navy acquired WNY’s eastern portion during World War I. In 1937, the Navy constructed Building 195 (now Quarters U), to replace the two small dwellings. The work performed by the Experimental Ammunition Unit and the Mine Laboratory included the development of new, experimental projects involving pyrotechnic devices. In addition, the Experimental Ammunition Unit developed a number of pyrotechnic fuses, requiring the handling of small amounts of explosives that ranged from black powder to trinitrotoluene (better known as TNT). The handling of the pyrotechnic materials and explosives was performed in the two old dwellings until 1924, when one of the dwellings was destroyed by an explosion. A 1928 naval gun factory annual report stated that these buildings were inadequate for this type of work because of their construction (wood and plaster) and lack of space, both contributing to safety concerns for personnel. Because of the explosion and this concern, Building 195 (present Quarters U) was constructed in 1937. Sometime during WWII, the Experimental Ammunition Unit and the Mine Laboratory were combined to form the Naval Ordnance Laboratory. The laboratory relocated to form the Naval Surface Warfare Center—White Oak in Silver Spring, Maryland, following the end of WWII. There is no documentation detailing a release or disposal practices; however, an explosion incidence report details a 1924 explosion in one of the two small dwellings. Site Responsibility Cleanup of the site is being addressed under Federal actions.

Hazardous Ranking Score

49 / 100

A score of 28.5 or higher qualifies a site for the Superfund National Priority List.

Regional Contact

Region 3
Within the region: (800) 438-2474
Outside the region: (215) 814-5000

Contact Region



Site Inspection
Preliminary Assessment
Final Listing On NPL

Contaminants & Health Effects

      Endocrine Disrupter
      Reproductive Toxin
      Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic


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