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Contamination of shallow ground water in the area of building 95, Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, 1985-90

February 1, 1995

A zone of contaminated ground water at Picatinny Arsenal has resulted from the operation of a metal- plating facility in building 95 during 1960-81, and the wastewater-treatment system that is in and adjacent to the building. Thirty-two monitoring wells were installed in 1989 to supplement 12 previously installed wells. All wells were sampled in 1989 and 1990 for analysis of ground water for inorganic constituents, trace elements, volatile organic compounds, and nutrients. Four wells also were sampled for analysis for base/neutral- and acid-extractable compounds and pesticides, and soil gas from the unsaturated zone at eight sites was analyzed for volatile organic compounds. Concentrations of dissolved solids and sulfate in the study area were consistently above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's secondary drinking-water regulations. The areal distribution of sulfate differed from that of the volatile organic compounds. Concentrations of trace elements were not elevated downgradient from the source. The estimated average velocity of contaminant movement is 0.1 to 1.1 feet per day. The major organic contaminants identified in the study area are trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and 1,1,1-trichloroethane. Trichloroethylene was detected in wells upgradient from the wastewater- treatment site. Tetrachloroethylene and 1,1,1-trichloroethane might originate at tanks in the basement of building 95 rather than at the adjacent wastewater-treatment system. The pre- dominant gas-phase contaminant, 1,1,1- trichloroethane, was detected at a maximum con- centration of 15.7 micrograms per liter. Both trichoroethylene and tetrachloroethylene were detected in concentrations greater than 0.10 micrograms per liter in five of the eight soil- gas samples, indicating that volatilization and diffusion through the unsaturated zone could be a significant mechanism of contaminant loss from the aquifer.