Diamonds in the Rough
Successful Redevelopment at Former Military Bases
Former United States Department of Defense (DOD) military bases represent highly desirable properties for redevelopment due to their locations—often on the waterfront—and neighborhood-sized acreage. Many former bases are in varying stages of realignment and closure, such as the Naval Surface Warfare Center White Oak in Maryland, Naval Station Treasure Island in California, and Charleston Naval Complex in South Carolina. While these properties are valuable from a redevelopment perspective, they also present challenges caused by environmental impacts from military operations. A key to the successful redevelopment of former DOD properties is the involvement of a knowledgeable environmental team that is well-versed in the complexities of the cleanup process.
A solid understanding of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) is the foundation of a successful DOD site cleanup. From the Preliminary Assessment to the Land Use Control Remedial Design, the environmental team must be familiar with the nuances of decisions made during the CERCLA process. Early involvement in the DOD site cleanup program is crucial to advocate for remedial action that will support future site use. Opportunities to provide input on DOD documents such as the feasibility study can reduce or avoid the need for additional remediation post-transfer helping steer the DOD toward remedial actions that support future use without cumbersome restrictions. A forward-thinking environmental team will consider not just the immediate future use, but also the potential long-term effects of evolving regulations, emerging contaminants, and sea level rise.
Expertise in the CERCLA process is crucial when analyzing a site’s suitability for development and identifying potential roadblocks for future site use. DOD sites may involve complex contaminants, including radiological impacts, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and munitions, in addition to the chemicals of concern typical at former industrial properties. Engaging an environmental team that possesses knowledge of these contaminants and understands the potential hazard considerations and future land use obstacles is integral to the success of industrial redevelopment projects.
Additionally, an experienced environmental team can help review land use restriction language, compile clearly defined and fair post-transfer responsibilities, and collaborate with project attorneys and stakeholders to contextualize land use restrictions for the proposed development. The project may also require negotiations to realign overextended restrictions or an environmental investigation to overcome restrictions limiting the desired development. By involving environmental experts in the CERCLA process, the team can confirm contamination areas are appropriately remediated prior to property transfer, which helps avoid the transfer of open environmental sites or sites lacking comprehensive closure documentation.
Langan possesses the expertise needed to help clients redevelop desirable yet cumbersome former military properties, providing early involvement in the base closure process, a thorough understanding of the CERCLA process, and experience crafting reasonable and well-defined post-transfer obligations.
Christopher Glenn, PE, LEED GA, ENV SP has nearly 25 years of experience as an environmental engineer and project manager for environmental assessment, remediation, and risk mitigation projects, specializing in solving environmental challenges that arise on brownfield, closed landfill, former military, and dry cleaner impacted sites.
Grace Stafford has over seven years of experience in the redevelopment and management of former military sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. She manages environmental compliance, stakeholder communications, and technical document peer review to drive successful redevelopment on former military sites.