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ATSDR evaluated the contamination at Fort Ord to determine whether people have been (in the past) or are now being exposed to (in contact with) hazardous substances, and, if so, whether the exposure(s) is harmful and should be stopped or reduced. We looked at the principal areas or sources of contamination and determined that currently, no one is being exposed to contaminants from Fort Ord sources. Further we evaluated past exposures and the potential for future exposures in the Fort Ord and Marina, California drinking water supply systems. The past exposures posed no apparent health hazard and it is not likely that future exposures of health significance will occur.

The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) detected in the past in Fort Ord's and Marina's drinking water wells were not at levels which could pose a threat to human health. Fort Ord's current drinking water wells are far removed from the landfill or other sources of contamination, drilled to deeper, uncontaminated aquifers, and, therefore, are unlikely to be contaminated in the future. No future pathways of human exposure to hazardous substances at levels of health significance have been identified. On this basis, ATSDR considers Fort Ord to be No Apparent Public Health Hazard.

Since Fort Ord was used for infantry training, some unexploded ordnance (UXO) and ordnance and explosives (OE) can be found on site. Those objects can pose a physical hazard. In areas planned for reuse, the Army plans to take all necessary actions prior to land transfer. The Army will produce an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) and an Action Memorandum which proposes and documents the action to be taken for OE sites. A final draft EE/CA will be available for public comment in October 1996. In the case of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, some potential OE areas may be transferred prior to completing an EE/CA, Action Memorandum, and/or ordnance removal action.

There are seven stormwater outfalls on the Fort Ord beach. Sampling of stormwater discharges has not detected contaminants at levels that might result in adverse human health effects. Stormwater discharge events are infrequent and human contact with those discharges would be seldom and accidental. Therefore, the stormwater discharges from the outfalls are determined to be no apparent public health hazard.

UXO has been found in Monterey Bay and the U.S. Navy has, in the past, removed UXO which has been located. However, specific information is not available on the location and type of UXO that may still be present. In the past, ordnance may have been fired from Fort Ord into a designated Restricted Zone within Monterey Bay. Any UXO that might have resulted would probably rest at depths of 169 to 1,890 feet below the surface of the ocean; depths that are accessed only by experienced, technical divers. Because of the lack of information, ATSDR considers the UXO in Monterey Bay to be an indeterminant physical hazard.

The Beach Ranges at Fort Ord contain fragments of small-arms bullets which contain lead. The levels of lead found in the "light" and "moderate" areas of surface bullet coverage are not at levels which could pose a threat to human health. In the areas of "heavy" surface bullet coverage (about 4% of the Beach Range area) the lead and bullet fragments will be removed to a level below 1,860 ppm. A pilot study indicates that the visual and mechanical lead removal method to be employed will result in a clean-up that may be as low as 5.6 ppm. A campground and other recreational uses of a portion of the Beach Range Area is proposed. It is further proposed that access to areas of remaining low-levels of lead contamination will be restricted by boardwalks and railed trails. On this basis, because of the removal of high levels of lead contamination, because access will be restricted to other areas of lower-level contamination, and because the Beach Ranges will only be used for recreational purposes, ATSDR concludes that the proposed future use of the Beach Ranges are no apparent public health hazard.


General Information

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was established under the mandate of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980. CERCLA, also known as the "Superfund" law, authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct clean-up activities at hazardous waste sites. EPA was directed to compile a list of sites considered hazardous to public health. This list is termed the National Priorities List (NPL). The 1986 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) directed ATSDR to perform a public health assessment for each NPL site. In 1990, federal facilities were included as sites to be proposed for or listed on the NPL.

Public health assessments or health consultations are conducted by scientists from ATSDR (or from states with which ATSDR has cooperative agreements). The purpose of ATSDR's investigation is to determine whether people have been (in the past) or are being exposed to (in contact with) hazardous substances and if so, whether that exposure is harmful and should be stopped or reduced.

In conducting the public Health Investigation ATSDR uses three types of information: environmental data, community health concerns, and health outcome data. A major source of information is the extensive environmental data collected for EPA. This information is examined to determine whether people in the community might be exposed to hazardous materials from the NPL facility. If people are being exposed to these chemicals, ATSDR will determine whether the exposure is at levels which might cause harm. A second source of information used in the analysis is community health concerns. ATSDR collects health concerns of community members and determines whether health problems could be related to exposure to chemicals released from the NPL facility. If ATSDR finds that harmful exposures have occurred, a third source of information, health outcome data (information from local hospitals and other medical organizations), can be used to further assess the occurrence of specific illnesses.

ATSDR is an advisory agency. Its recommendations identify actions which EPA, the facility or local agencies may undertake. ATSDR presents its conclusions about whether exposures are occurring, and whether a health threat is present. In some cases, if enough information is available, it is possible to determine whether exposures occurred in the past. If it is found that a threat exists, recommendations are made to stop or reduce the threat to public health. If exposures are occurring at levels which could pose a threat to public health, ATSDR can undertake health education activities or certain additional follow-up studies. ATSDR can also identify types of information which might be needed to make public health decisions, if such information is lacking.

Quality Assurance and Quality Control

In preparing this Public Health assessment, ATSDR relies on the information provided in the referenced documents and contacts. The agency assumes adequate quality assurance and control measures were followed with regard to chain-of-custody, laboratory procedures, and data reporting. The validity of the analyses and conclusions drawn in this document are determined by the availability and reliability of the referenced information.

Exposure Evaluation Process

In order to evaluate the effect on public health of contaminants at NPL sites, ATSDR's investigations focus on whether people have been exposed to (in contact with) the contaminants. To this end, the two most important tasks are;

  1. determining whether people have been exposed to hazardous materials from the NPL facility, and,
  2. if exposure is possible or has occurred, determining whether the exposure is at a level and sufficient duration that could be a threat to public health.

When ATSDR conducts a site visit at an NPL site, information is gathered to determine:

  • whether contamination exists in the environment,
  • whether contamination is in places where people in the surrounding community might come in contact with the contaminants, and
  • if there is exposure, whether it is at a level high enough to affect the health of people in the community.

To make these decisions, the way that people might contact the contaminant will be examined. By this we mean whether the chemical is:

  • inhaled;
  • ingested (eaten or drunk); or
  • absorbed through the skin.

Not all chemicals are a hazard for each of these methods of contact. For example, most metals are not harmful, particularly in very low amounts, if the only contact is by way of the skin.


Site Visits and Community Concerns Identified

ATSDR first conducted a site visit to the Fort Ord installation on June 26-27, 1991. The purpose of this visit was to rank the installation on the basis of its public health threat among the 91 other installations visited nationwide at that time. We also met with the public and local officials to gather information about possible public health concerns. Data on volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination of surface soils and groundwater was analyzed. The Fort Ord sanitary landfill and areas of light industrial activity were being studied as possible sources of this surface soil contamination and the groundwater contamination detected in installation supply wells and in the City of Marina's backup supply well. We saw no urgent public health threats at that time.

A second site visit was conducted on July 26, 1994 for the purpose of reviewing the contaminant data gathered during the site remedial investigations, the status of interim cleanup actions, and the plans and progress made in the identification and destruction or removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and ordnance and explosives (OE). In meetings with concerned and involved members of the Monterey County area, concerns were expressed to ATSDR about groundwater contamination of drinking water wells and the hazards represented by UXO and OE. After reviewing remedial investigation, base closure, and other relevant documents, a follow-up site visit was conducted by ATSDR on June 21-23, 1995 to meet with community members, the Restoration Advisory Board, and others to confirm the nature of the public health concerns associated with the site and to more fully explain the ATSDR health assessment process. In a fourth site visit ATSDR held public availability meetings in Seaside and Marina, California on May 13 and 14, 1996. During those meetings ATSDR gathered additional community concerns and explained the nature of the public health assessment process.

Through review of the information compiled by the remedial investigation process (Dames & Moore, 1993; HLA, 1994) and the observations gathered during site visits, ATSDR has not found evidence of current pathways of human exposure to contaminants released from Fort Ord sources. However, the community concerns voiced by individual members of the nearby communities during meetings, phone calls, or in correspondence have identified six questions that will be elaborated on further in this assessment:

    * Has groundwater contamination detected at Fort Ord affected drinking water wells on post or in nearby communities and, if so, has or will that contamination result in adverse human health effects?
    * Is the general public's health and safety at risk from unexploded ordnance (UXO) and ordnance and explosives (OE) when they visit Fort Ord or make use of the areas and facilities being made available or developed for public use following closure?
      >In addition, do the Chemical Agent Identification Sets (CAIS) reportedly used and buried at Fort Ord represent a potential threat to human health?
    * Does the surface water discharge from the beach stormwater outfalls contain contaminants which could threaten human health?
    * Do the UXO in Monterey Bay pose a physical hazard to human health?
    * Is the lead concentration in the Beach Ranges (Site 3) at levels which could cause adverse human health affects?

Site Description

Fort Ord is a 46 square miles (28,000 acres) former Army installation in northwestern Monterey County, California. The installation is bounded on the north and east by the Salinas River alluvial basin, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and on the south by the Santa Lucia Range. The cities of Marina and Seaside are adjacent to Fort Ord on the northwest and southwest corners, respectively. The local terrain consists of gently rolling hills of active and older dune sand deposits. (Dames & Moore, 1993, p.4). Figure 1 shows the location of Fort Ord and surrounding areas.

Site History

The U.S. Army purchased 15,000 acres of land for maneuver and training ground for artillery and cavalry troops in 1917. In the late 1930's, permanent improvements were made. An additional 15,000 acres were purchased in 1938 for the development of the Main Garrison, which was constructed between 1940 and the 1960's. Fritzsche Army Airfield was completed in the early 1960's.

Between 1947 and 1975, the 4th Infantry Division occupied Fort Ord. The Fort served as an infantry training center during that time. Fort Ord was the 7th Infantry Division's home prior to 1947 and after 1975. In 1983, the 7th Division was converted to a light infantry division; the light infantry division does not use heavy tanks, armor, or artillery. Fort Ord, when active, employed approximately 15,000 active duty military personnel and 5,000 civilian employees (USACHPPM, 1994, p. 2).

Fort Ord operated as a permanent installation of Headquarters, Department of the Army, Forces Command. The primary mission of Fort Ord was to train troops. It provided command, administration, and logistical support and other functions necessary to operate and maintain facilities at Fort Ord and its subinstallations, the Presidio of Monterey and Fort Hunter Liggett. Fort Ord also supported active Army tenant units and other activities as assigned, attached, or stationed, including satellite activities off the installation (US Army Corps of Engineers, 1993, p.1-2).

In 1985, chemical analyses of groundwater samples were collected from Fort Ord and Marina through the Marina County Water District (MCWD). When those samples showed trace levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), an evaluation of potential contaminant sources was initiated. The Fort Ord Landfill facility, which was active at the time, was suspected as a potential source area. The Central Coast Region of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) then issued a Cleanup and Abatement Order to Fort Ord in February 1986. This order required Fort Ord to begin a hydrogeologic study to assess the possible effects of their landfills on the groundwater. The order was amended in November 1986 to revise dates and items of compliance for the hydrogeologic investigation.

In order to comply with the RWQCB order, the Fort Ord Directorate of Engineering and Housing (DEH), the Sacramento District of the Corps of Engineers (CE), and Harding-Lawson Associates (HLA) performed an investigation to evaluate groundwater quality and hydrogeologic characteristics in the Upper, 180-Foot, and 400-Foot Aquifer systems. Because the water supply wells are located throughout the site, the investigation was limited to the area immediately adjacent to the landfill.

Fort Ord was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) by the EPA on February 21, 1990. The U.S. Army, EPA, and state of California entered into a Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA) which outlines the projected scope of work and schedule of work to be conducted at the site (Dames & Moore, 1993, p.1-8).

Under the provisions of public laws 100-526 and 101-510, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission was implemented by the Secretary of Defense to produce annual savings. The Department of Defense (DOD) established eight criteria for selecting bases;

  1. Current and future mission requirements and the impact on operational readiness of DOD's total force.
  2. The availability and condition of land, facilities, and associated airspace at both the existing and potential receiving locations.
  3. The ability to accommodate contingency, mobilization, and future total force requirements at both the existing and potential receiving locations.
  4. Cost and manpower implications.
  5. The extent and timing of potential costs and savings, including the number of years, beginning with the date of completion of the closure or realignment, for the savings to exceed the costs.
  6. The economic impact on communities.
  7. The ability of both the existing and potential receiving communities.
  8. The environment impact.

On July 1, 1991, the BRAC Commission recommended closure of Fort Ord and the relocation of the 7th Infantry Division to Fort Lewis, WA. As a result of the decision to close Fort Ord, a Base Reuse Plan (BRP; see Figure 2 and Appendix A for details) was formulated to achieve three strategic goals (Base Reuse Plan, 1994, p.1-2);

  • environmental protection,
  • economic development, and
  • education.

The BRP will meet those goals in the following ways:

Environmental Protection: Large areas of land will be dedicated to habitat management. The nearby cities anticipate that agreements can be formed to provide habitat conservation measures for both Fort Ord and the cities.
Economic Development: Up to 60,000 quality jobs will be created over the 50-year time period.
Education: Educational institutions will be founded on surplus Fort Ord property.

  1. California State University Monterey Bay
  2. University of California Santa Cruz
  3. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District
  4. Monterey Peninsula College
  5. Monterey Institute of International Studies
  6. Monterey College of Law
  7. Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy
  8. Golden Gate University

These facilities will provide an avenue for improved career training and create jobs.

Local Demographics

ATSDR examines the demographics of communities that are near NPL sites for many reasons. The local demographics may be useful in identifying the presence of sensitive subpopulations, such as young children or the elderly or in providing information on the length of residency and, therefore, the length of potential exposure to contaminants. The demographics of the cities of Marina and Seaside were examined because of their proximity to Fort Ord, their high population density, and to assist in the evaluation of community health concerns.

The total population of Monterey County in 1995 was 370,996. This total county population has continued to grow despite the closure of Fort Ord (see Table 1). The cities of Marina and Seaside, which neighbor the base on the northwest and southwest corners, respectively, have decreased in population since the closure of Fort Ord in 1991 (see Figure 1). Population and housing data from 1980, 1990, and 1995 for the two cities are found in Tables 2 and 3.

The populations of Marina and Seaside declined by over 8,000 residents each between 1990 and 1995. That large population loss can be attributed to the closing of Fort Ord, since many military personnel and their dependents lived in the two cities due to their proximity to the post. The presence of military personnel and their families also accounts for the higher percentages of both males and children under age 10 (i.e., areas near military installations typically have large percentages of young families in their child-bearing years).

Both Marina and Seaside are racially diverse communities. Figure 3, based upon the 1990 census data, shows the population and demographic characteristics of a one-mile wide zone around Fort Ord.

Over 60% of households in both Marina and Seaside were renter-occupied in 1990. The presence of a large, generally transient military population was one of the major reasons for the high percentage of renters in 1990. From 1990 to 1995 the percentages of persons in group quarters, including such facilities as military barracks, prisons, and college dormitories, fell drastically for both cities from 8.8% to 0.1% in Marina and 15.2% to 0.6% in Seaside (see Table 3), due again to the departure of most of the military population; the city limits of both Marina and Seaside overlapped the post boundaries, and those areas included barracks. Average persons per household remained above 3.0, which is quite high, for both cities for all three years. For comparison of Marina and Seaside housing data with county-wide data, see Table 4.

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