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As a result of environmental contamination, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, (MCRD) Parris Island was proposed for listing on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List in August 1994. The listing was based on surface water and human food chain contamination. MCRD is located on a barrier island off the Atlantic Ocean. It operates as a Marine Corps training depot for marine recruits. Parris Island was first used by the military in 1885 as a naval shipyard. The Depot's long history of disposal of hazardous materials has lead to environmental contamination.

ATSDR evaluated the environmental information and site conditions at 59 areas to determine if people could be coming in contact with hazardous chemical contaminants at levels of health concern. ATSDR does not evaluate biological contamination. All conclusions and recommendations are based on hazardous chemical contamination. Our findings are as follows.


We identified two areas where chemical contaminants in soil entered the surface water wetland areas and bioaccumulated in edible fish and shellfish species: 1) contaminated fish and shellfish at the Causeway Landfill (Site 3) and 2) contaminated shellfish near the Rifle Range. These exposure situations pose no apparent public health hazard due to the low levels of contaminants detected in fish and shellfish. However, because the landfill has no impermeable cap nor leachate collection system, it is not known whether contaminants in fish and shellfish will increase over time. Therefore, ATSDR recommends monitoring contaminant levels in fish and shellfish every 5 years to ensure that edible fish and shellfish species remain safe to eat for recreational harvesters.


The remaining 57 contaminated areas pose no public health hazard because people are not coming in contact with contaminants. Most contaminated areas on Parris Island are either buried below ground, in remote unaccessible areas, or have been removed. However, if land use changes, the likelihood of human exposure should be re-evaluated by MCRD, SCDHEC, EPA or ATSDR.


Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) Parris Island is an active installation located on a barrier island 1 mile south of the city of Port Royal and about 3 miles south of Beaufort, South Carolina. It is in Beaufort County, South Carolina approximately 50 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina and 40 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia (Figure 1) on the Atlantic Ocean (1). The only land access to Parris Island is via a guarded entry to the causeway road. Visitors must check in with Military Police who request information about the visitor's destination on the island before providing a pass. MCRD consists of 8,047 acres. Approximately 3,274 acres are dry land, 4,344 acres are salt marsh, and 429 acres are saltwater creeks and ponds (2).

Parris Island is sparsely populated, with only 2,151 active duty military personnel, 3,564 dependents, 2,997 military retirees, and 4,028 retiree family members (1). On-base housing is provided for all enlisted personnel and some officers. Other military personnel must find housing off-base. There is frequent turnover of personnel at MCRD. Recruits and drill instructors train for 11-12 weeks. Approximately 20,000 recruits graduating each year. The average tour of duty for officers and staff is about 2 years, with medical and dental staff staying for 3 to 4 years (3).

Construction of the naval shipyard began on Parris Island in 1885. A wooden dry dock was built in 1893 and used for ship maintenance. In 1915, the entire island was transferred to the Marine Corps for use as a recruit depot. A small air field was built (Page Field) in 1932 for training Marine Corps and Navy pilots. Presently, the depot provides training for Marine Corps recruits (male recruits east of the Mississippi and all female recruits) (4).

Prior to the current established environmental regulations, previously accepted hazardous material handling and disposal led to environmental contamination at several areas on the depot. Chemicals used or disposed of include fuels, metals, pesticides, explosives, Volatile Organic Compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, and polychlorinated biphenyls. Based on contamination of surface water and human food chain (seafood) contamination, MCRD was proposed for listing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List in August 1994 (5). Environmental investigations have been on going since 1985 when the Navy conducted the Initial Assessment Study (6). Currently, environmental investigations continue under the Installation Restoration Program. A total of 49 potentially contaminated sites have been identified by past environmental assessments and investigations. Ten additional sites have been identified and are being evaluated to determine if further environmental investigations are warranted (4).

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