Fort Devens Sudbury Training Annex Presentation

Toby Mandel


Fort Devens Sudbury Training annex is a military training area established in 1942. It is located 20 miles east of Worcester, and 20 miles west of Boston in Sudbury Massachusetts. It occupies a four square mile area across parts of Sudbury, Maynard, Stow and Hudson. Surrounding the Annex is mainly agricultural land interspersed with residential areas.


The annex was first used for storage of ammunition for world war two, as well as some personnel training. In the 1950s, the annex continued its use for training but also began to be used as a waste dump for the Natick Laboratories. Its purpose remained consistent until the early 1980s when it began to train active duty personnel to support various army units.


After an oil spill in 1985, the government realized that there was a potential pollution problem at Fort Devens. Some government officials speculated that the groundwater and soils could be contaminated. In 1986, investigation and study of the annex began and it was found that there in fact was contamination of the wells being monitored. The primary contaminants at the wells included volatile organic contaminants (VOC's) and pesticides. A few years later, in 1989, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Superfund stepped in to further evaluate the damage. The following February, the site was placed on the Superfund National Priority List.


Actions to clean up Fort Devens began in 1985, when the army removed 300 gallons of Arochlor and approximately 75 tons of Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated soil from a staging area. In the fall of 1985, and additional 86 tons of PCB-contaminated soil were removed from this same area. Between the fall of 1987 and the summer of 1988 the army removed approximately 1100 cubic yards of contaminated soil from a former fire training area. In 1993 the army completed the removal of underground storage tanks at the Annex. At this same time the army fenced off several sites and buildings to prevent trespassers from physical harm or from coming into contact with contaminated areas.


One of the main sites of contamination is the Old Gavel Pit Landfill. This area was used from the early 1940's to the early 1980's for the disposal of laboratory chemicals from the Natick Laboratory and miscellaneous solid waste. In 1991 the army began an investigation into the nature and extent of the contamination at the landfill site, and determined that a landfill cap was necessary to control contamination. Construction of the cap was completed in 1996. After further testing proved the groundwater at the site continued to be contaminated, monitoring officially began in 1997.


A major concern at the site and in the areas today is the question of whether or not groundwater and more specifically drinking water is affected. An estimated 35,700 people obtain drinking water from public and private wells within three miles of the waste areas. A private well is located 1600 feel from the waste areas. Low levels of lindane, a pesticide, tetracholoroethene (TCE) and some volatile organics like solvents, have migrated from the landfill into the ground water. These VOCs, pesticides and inoranics are above drinking water standards. According to Marco Kaltofen, scientific director in the national Toxics campaign's Boston office, independent testing shows substantial undocumented contamination of water supplies in both Stow and Hudson.


White Pond and Lake Boone, two fairly significant bodies of water in the area have been supposedly affected by the contamination at Fort Devens Sudbury Annex. White Pond formerly provided water to 12,000 residents of Maynard. It is located within 3 miles downstream of Waste Area A5- a 70 square foot pit where laboratory solvents were buried during 1973-79. Testing of Lake Boone in Stow showed contamination of surface water by acids, ammonia, and phosphorous believed to have come from the Army reservation. Sediments in a creek bed feeding the lake showed contamination by toxic metals including mercury lead and cadmium, which could cause cancer, central nervous system damage and birth defects.


Currently, the site has been declared cleaned up and a document from the EPA states that no further actions are needed at Fort Devens. The project is ahead of schedule- the estimated date of completion in 1994 was 2010. The site will be periodically reviewed at least every five years, and groundwater monitoring will continue for at least another thirty years.


Sources Used

EPA New England, National Priorities List Fact Sheet. A4350EB2D816BCD68525691F0063F6CA?OpenDocument (March 4, 2001) (March 4, 2001) (March 4, 2001) (March 4, 2001)

Franklin, James L. Toxins found at military sites. Boston Globe. March 14, 1991. p. 31

Rodriguez, Cindy. Status report on Superfund sites; Cleanups lagging at six areas in region as EPA funds run out. Boston Globe. March 15, 1998. p. 1


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