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DoD News Briefing - Sherri Goodman, DUSD (Environmental Security)

Presenters: Sherri Goodman, DUSD (Environmental Security)
August 30, 2000 1:30 PM EDT

(Also participating in this briefing were Mr. Raymond J. Fatz, deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Environmental Safety and Occupational Health); Mr. Paul Yaroschak, director, Environmental Compliance and Restoration Policy; Mr. Thomas W. G. McCall, Jr., deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force (Environment Safety and Occupational Health); Ms. Jan B. Reitman, staff director, Environmental and Safety Policy, Headquarters, Defense Logistics Agency; and Mr. Robert C. Shinn, Jr., commissioner, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)

Goodman: Good afternoon. I'm Sherri Goodman, deputy under secretary of Defense for Environmental Security. And I'm pleased to be here this afternoon. Joining me is Commissioner Bob Shinn from the state of New Jersey, as well as the deputy assistant secretaries of our military departments.

And I want to thank you all for joining us today as witnesses as to the signing of an important agreement between the state of New Jersey and the Department of Defense. This agreement is important because it's going to help us clean up military sites in New Jersey faster, better, and cheaper. And I appreciate the efforts of everyone for succeeding in reaching an agreement that will be beneficial to all parties, but especially to the citizens of New Jersey.

And I want to take a few minutes just to highlight some of the important aspects of this voluntary cleanup agreement. It supports an ongoing effort to assess and eliminate potential environmental and public health risks at military sites in New Jersey.

This is the second voluntary cleanup agreement that the Department of Defense has signed. We signed one with Pennsylvania a couple of years ago. And we're very pleased to be signing this one with New Jersey today.

It provides structure and sets the pace for permanent cleanup -- and that's important -- permanent cleanup of our contaminated sites in New Jersey. It's expected to speed investigations and cleanup at military sites, as well as promote the use of innovative technologies for cleanup, which is also significant, because I would note that the state of New Jersey, and Commissioner Shinn in particular, has been a leader in promoting the use of innovative technologies. This agreement allows us to build upon and not replace what we are already doing in the Defense State Memorandum of Agreement, or DSMOA, process.

The state of New Jersey is a significant partner for the Department of Defense. We have over 550 sites in the state located on 29 installations. We also have five major base closure and realignment installations, or BRAC installations -- Fort Monmouth, Camp Pedricktown, Trenton Naval Air Weapons Center, Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal, and portions of Fort Dix -- all of which we are anxious to transfer to the local community when all the necessary agreements and controls are in place.

In addition, there are about 75 restoration sites at our formerly used defense sites -- those are properties no longer owned by the Department of Defense -- in this program.

Additional benefits of this effort include a joint planning process, developing common technical standards, and improving how parties work together to share information. Okay. What does that really all mean? It means cutting red tape. It means that the state -- the people in New Jersey and the people in the Department of Defense -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Defense Logistics Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and all associated entities -- will now have a formal process under which they can work together.

It's also evidence of the credibility and trust that has been already established between the state of New Jersey and DoD in the time we've taken to negotiate this agreement. That means that we'll be able to do things, as I said, faster, better and, we certainly hope, cheaper. It provides for the most reasonably expeditious and cost-effective assessment and environmental restoration of sites in New Jersey that were owned or operated by the military. It will save the taxpayer money by helping the state and military manage their workloads more efficiently.

Our estimates on the total cost to complete cleanup in the state of New Jersey as of calendar year 2000 are about $370 million for all of our DoD sites. And we estimate that this could save us approximately $50 million, and if we do a good job, maybe even more. So the opportunity to sit down with state representatives and work through site details as laid out in this agreement will undoubtedly pay great dividends in the future, as I've just mentioned. The negotiations have already gone a long way, as I said, toward establishing that trust and credibility.

We embrace the partnering that is a central part of this agreement, and it's indicative of DoD and the state's commitment to work together to successfully and efficiently restore our military lands.

Now I would like to introduce Commissioner Shinn, and I'd also like to thank all the people here who have participated in reaching this agreement. Commissioner Bob Shinn, I've had the pleasure of working with him almost the entire time that I have been here in the Department of Defense, which is over seven years now. Commissioner Shinn has been with the state of New Jersey for -- is it six years? Oh, more than that? Maybe longer than that. Okay. But I've been working with you at least that amount of time, so you have a great deal of credibility, a great deal of initiative to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Prior to being nominated as commissioner, Secretary Shinn served as a state assemblyman, and he's also responsible for New Jersey's Water Supply Critical Area Law, that gives the state authority to manage threatened surface and groundwater resources, as well as passage of New Jersey's Mandatory Recycling Act and Medical Waste Disposal Act.

So now, I would like to introduce Commissioner Shinn.

Shinn: Well, it's hard to speak after someone has covered the whole waterfront. (Laughter.) And I have to thank Sherri for doing a comprehensive job. But I just think the relationship that's been built between the services and DoD and the state has been great. I think the support for technology training across the country with DoD and the armed services has helped build this relationship and credibility between the states and DoD and the services that Sherri was referring to.

I think through the ITRC, which is under the Environmental Council of States group, training has been conducted on technologies in all 50 states. And that goes a long way to build relationships and understanding. And I think we've capitalized on that project in New Jersey and have worked through this agreement, which wasn't easy, quite frankly. There are a bunch of issues that you have to meet and get through. And I'd like to thank our staff, Sue Boyle (sp) and Bob Danfossin (sp), and a whole group of other staff people are here that have worked on this and really have made it happen.

And I think it's a great day. It's good for us because we're going to do a lot more cleanups a lot more rapidly and get through the bureaucratic process of cleanups and get down to really focusing on sites, getting the monies aligned to clean them up and get on with it.

So I expect that to save us a lot of time and implement our governor's goal, which is pretty simple: making New Jersey a better place to live, work, and raise a family. And this contributes to that.

Thank you very much.

Goodman: Okay. Now we'd like to move to the signing of the agreement. And I'm going to ask Commissioner Shinn and the deputy assistant secretaries of the services, as well as our DLA representative, Ray Satz, Paul Yaroschak, Tad McCall, and Jan Reitman, please to come forward and sign the agreement.

(Documents are signed.)

Okay. With all assembled, I'd just like to thank a few people who have worked on this agreement: in New Jersey, Terri Smith, Bruce Venner, and Pam Lange; and our DoD staff, Dan Benton, Paul Pressman, Colleen Rathburn. And I'd like you all to stand for a round of applause. (Applause.)

Vic Wieszek, too. (Laughter.)

Okay. We'd be happy to answer any questions.

Q: Do you have specific sites?

Are there sites being worked on now? I mean, what is this -- it's a little confusing to me. I mean, we've known there's been contamination of military sites, and you've cited the number that have gone. How many are being worked on now? Do you still have to search for other sites? Do you have lists of what those sites are? Do you have any priorities, anything that you can give us that can put a little meat on the bones? Because right now this all -- I mean, I realize you've all worked hard on this, but it doesn't -- you know, it doesn't translate to much.

Goodman: Well, we do have a list of all the sites in the program right now, as I said, about 550 sites at 29 installations and 75 properties in the formerly used defense sites. And yes, you can get a copy of that. And we have -- and then we will be setting the priorities within that that we want to attack first under this agreement. And in fact, one of the areas that we are specifically interested in -- well, I'll tell you, two areas we're most interested in at the outset are the properties at the Base Realignment and Closure Bases, the BRAC properties, the five, and I mentioned those five locations, and then as well at the formerly used defense sites, the properties no longer owned by the Department of Defense but where the military formerly had activities. They could be owned in private or in public hands right now. And we'd like to expedite the cleanup there to make that property reusable by the community again.

Q: Are the five BRAC sites part of the 29 overall installations, or are those in addition?

Goodman: Those are -- yes, a part of those 29.

Q: Okay. And the 300 -- you gave the figure on how much money you expected to spend, $370 million, is your estimate for all of the sites that you know about right now?

Goodman: These are all of the sites in the program. What I should say is this agreement covers all military sites in New Jersey except for Superfund sites. There are a couple of bases that have been designated by EPA to be on the national priorities list of Superfund sites. Those are not included in this agreement because that would require EPA to be part of it. This is an agreement between the state of New Jersey and the Department of Defense.

Q: Okay. So can we get some of those -- do you have that information that we can get as well?

Goodman: Sure.

Q: A list of all of the 550 or so worked on, if we could get those?

Goodman: Yes.

Q: So if there is a Superfund site at Picatinny Arsenal, or if there's this BOMARC site that the McGuire --

Goodman: The BOMARC site is included within this agreement.

Q: BOMARC is included in this agreement?

Goodman: Yes. Yes, it is.

Q: But if there's a -- is all Picatinny a Superfund site, or just part of it, and there's other sites of Picatinny that would come under this?

Goodman: I would ask Ray to answer it.

Fatz: Not all --

Staff: It's on an installation basis, though, I believe.

Goodman: So Picatinny -- what's the answer?

Staff: It's included in the agreement, yeah.

Goodman: Picatinny is included in the --

Staff: Picatinny is included --

Goodman: -- Picatinny is included in this agreement.

Q: But isn't -- maybe I'm wrong, but isn't there something at Picatinny that's been declared a Superfund site? No?

Goodman: Ray?

Staff: I don't think so.

Fatz: A portion of it, but not --

Goodman: Okay.

Q: Yeah, that's what I was asking. So you could have a portion of it, but the rest of it would be covered by this --

Reitman: Right. There would be portions that aren't part of -- portions on the site that may not be part of the Superfund site.

(Cross talk.)

Goodman: There may be sites on the installation that are Superfund sites --

Reitman: And that -- right --

Q: Yeah. Okay, that's what --

Goodman: They would be --

Reitman: Because -- (inaudible) -- they can choose, so --

Q: So the whole base is not excluded from this?

Staff: Right.

Goodman: Correct. Right. Right.

Q: Could you also walk through how this is going to be faster and cheaper? I mean, are there lines of communication from the state to DoD, to the state, to DoD, that no longer have to happen, because each side trusts each other to monitor itself, or --

Goodman: Well, the traditional process has been work at -- work from the bottom up, which is certainly not bad, and we're going to encourage that. But when you start from the bottom up, you have to establish the relationship at the action officer level, at the base level, and if there are issues that require further attention, either in the state or in the military service or the Department of Defense, they have go up those levels. And that whole process can take time.

What this does is it establishes the formal process. It's made clear that myself and Commissioner Shinn -- we've already agreed on the efforts at partnering. The mechanisms are in place. The lines of communication are well established. And so we think it's going to save time.

A lot of the money spent here is time and process. You know, what we're trying to do is cut out the process, so we can get to the actual cleanup as quickly as possible.

I'd ask Commissioner Shinn if he would like to say anything from New Jersey's standpoint.

Shinn: I think you've covered it, Sherri.

Goodman: Okay.

Shinn: I really do. Again -- (laughter) --

Goodman: Yeah. Well, the other thing is single points of contact, you know, so that people know who to contact, and they know, you know, how to get things done, who to go to, and how to do it quickly.

Q: So is part of this that instead -- I don't know if it would be all 550, but instead of 550 separate requests bubbling up from the bottom, you now have from the top said, "These 550 are approved as part of our relationship or as part of our agreement."

Goodman: Right. It also will enable us to package, as -- just as you said, we can package the sites. Right now the military departments will work on their own with the state, and they are constrained by, you know, the individuals that they have in any one time and the funding they have in any one year to work on those -- the sites at their own services' installations. Now, with this agreement, they can be packaged, so a year's work plan can combine the efforts. And particularly given the fact that we have in New Jersey military installations co-located, there might even be opportunities for making some of the work that's now done individually by services concurrent or finding ways that they can gain efficiencies by having the services join together, in ways that might not have been apparent before.

Q: Is this all federal money? Is this all DoD money that goes to clean this up?

Goodman: Yes, it is.

Q: And so will -- what role -- the state is -- I mean, who actually does the cleanup, who -- I mean, if it's a military facility, the state is not coming in and cleaning up a military facility, right? It's --

Goodman: No, the state is the regulator --

Q: The state's the -- but you hire -- who hires -- you hire the contractors? I mean, DoD hires the contractors?

Goodman: Correct. Mm-hmm. (Affirmative.)

Q: And the state oversees it?

Goodman: Correct.

Q: But there's no state money, except in kind or the use of their -- is the state reimbursed for being a regulator, or that's just their --

Goodman: The state is reimbursed, to a certain extent. Through our Defense State Memorandum of Agreement program, the state is provided funding on an annual basis to oversee cleanup of military sites.

Q: And is New Jersey any better or worse than other places? I mean, is this a high concentration of sites that are contaminated, or is this standard throughout the country?

Staff: Sixteenth out of 50.

Shinn: We're worse. (Laughter.)

Goodman: Sixteen?

Staff: Number 16 on the list of states.

Shinn: On a per square mile basis, it's no secret we have more Superfund sites than any state in the country.

Goodman: Yeah.

Staff: (Off mike.)

Goodman: Sixteen. One-six.

Shinn: And we make an effort to find sites in New Jersey which is probably a little different than most states. We try to get everything identified on a list for cleanup and then expedite the cleanups. We do that with brownfields. We have a known contaminated site list. We do that with our Superfund sites. We're getting sites cleaned up. But again, we're adding sites. So this is part of our overall strategy to identify sites, line up the cleanup strategies, and get on with the cleanups.

Q: And, I'm sorry, was New Jersey --

Goodman: Fifteen states have more sites that we're cleaning up than New Jersey, 15. So they are 16th out of 50.

Q: Why have only two states signed up for this sort of procedure so far? Why only Pennsylvania and Jersey?

Goodman: Well, we really just started it a few years ago. We'd like to see this replicated across as many states as possible because we think it's the way to go. And we are anxious to work with as many other states as are interested. And I give great credit to New Jersey because as soon as they learned of our intent to sign an agreement with Pennsylvania, Commissioner Shinn said, "Hey, we want to do something similar." And indeed, we have.

It does take a little time to work through the process, you know, identify all the sites, get a common understanding and a common set of terms. It's particularly dependent upon state law. The laws of each state are a little bit different. But I hope that we will have more of these agreements in the future. I think what it means is that New jersey and Pennsylvania are leaders.

Q: Forgive me if you've already gone over this, but how would you characterize the threat to public health and environment?

Goodman: None of the sites that we are talking about here in this agreement pose an imminent threat to public health and the environment. These sites all have contamination that needs to be addressed. As I said, they are not sites that pose an imminent threat; they are sites that we want to clean up with permanent remedies and correct past damage.

Q: That if left untreated, could pose a threat.

Goodman: If left untreated for some time. They are all -- they have all been assessed to a certain extent already and are in various phases of the cleanup process.

Q: Have you got any other states lined up for this kind of agreement, any others who have expressed interest in this kind of -- (inaudible) -- agreement besides -- I mean, you've got Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Do you approach them, or do the states approach you?

Goodman: Well, it goes both ways. I mean, we make known our interest, and we have done that through the Environmental Council of the States, through ECOS, through other forums that we have to work with states. And certainly any state that knows about it can certainly approach us. Does anybody here want to mention any other states?

Staff: Well, we've been talking with West Virginia, with state of Virginia. Maryland has shown interest. I think even New York has shown some interest, as well as Illinois.

Staff: And North Carolina.

Staff: And North Carolina, yes.

Q: Has anyone said they don't want to get involved?

Goodman: No.

Staff: No one has given us a "no" yet.

Q: I have an endless series of questions, I guess. I'm sorry.

In terms of nationally, do you know how many installations and how many sites there are in your -- that you have to deal with that are contaminated?

Goodman: There are about 10,000 sites at -- about how many installations?

Staff: In BRAC, about 1,700 installations and 4,000-some-odd FUDS properties.

Q: Four hundred what?

Staff: Four thousand-some-odd formerly used defense sites.

Q: And in terms of New Jersey, what are the big -- I mean, there must be a range of things from very small problems to large problems. Can you cite some of the bigger sites that need to be cleaned up, the most expensive or the most difficult, that are on the list right now?

Q: What types of things are you talking about?

Q: Yeah, like what kind of contamination? If you could give us two or three or four sites, where they are located, that are particularly costly or difficult or serious.

Goodman: I'm either going to ask Commissioner Shinn or I'm going to ask each of the services or a couple of the services to talk about one or --

Shinn: One of the sites of concern from my perspective, the BOMARC site, is a site of concern, would be on the higher end of the scale, from my perspective.

Q: Do you know what that -- I mean, is it planned to ship that soil to Utah or something? Has it begun, or is it --

Shinn: That's the remedy, as I understand it.

Q: Is there a cost associated with that? Out of this $350 million, is that $1 million, $20 million?

McCall: I don't know the exact cost, but we have that money programmed in the Air Force for that, but we need to gain the confidence of some of the communities that the material has to be transported through, if it is to be transported. And we need the cooperation of the state to be able to facilitate that kind of confidence.

Addressing McGuire would be at one end, and BOMARC at McGuire is certainly an example of where you have a complex issue. If you ask on the other end, we have a place called Warren Grove Range, and that's going to be a much more simple site to do. But because it's simpler and the risk is less, we've never been able to get the funding. This is another part of the benefit of this program; the things that are at the end are going to get some visibility too.

We had some money programmed in '99 to do study at Warren Grove, and it didn't make the cut. It was cut from our budget. And so we've reprogrammed it. How much money is it? It's only $19,000. But, working with the state, we can take Warren Grove and we can take the other issues and we can collectively come up with a smart solution. Otherwise, I may not get to Warren Grove during my lifetime. But we'll get there better and we'll get there smarter and we'll get a cost-effective solution that works for the state.

Q: And Warren Grove is the name of the facility, or is that --

McCall: It's a range, right. And frankly, I didn't know about Warren Grove till I got ready to come here today. (Laughter.) Okay.

Shinn: But let me tell you how important Warren Grove is from my perspective. It's in the preservation of the Pinelands.

McCall: Okay.

Shinn: So this is a preservation area. So it happens to be a bombing range in the Pygmy Forest, which is a very cherished piece of property in the state of New Jersey. So even though it's a small project, it's important. And I think we'll able to draw some attention in our agreement and our prioritization to some of those kind of sites that -- we definitely want to do everything we can relative to the preservation area of the Pinelands. And if you look at the geographic location at Fort Dix and Lakehurst and McGuire, they sort of benchmark the Pinelands and preservation area. So they're bases that are in sensitive areas.

The bombing range is just sort of segment of McGuire Air Force Base and the National Guard -- Air National Guard. But it's a pretty active site, and it's one in a sensitive area.

Goodman: The woman in back.

Q: Have there been any sites overseas that have been targeted for this, or anybody -- any country that's coming to ask for -- (off mike)?

Goodman: Well, we have done cleanup at our installations overseas, certainly. And in Germany and in other countries, we have done cleanup there. And we have ongoing discussions with a number of countries.

Yes?

Q: Would this add any liability to the state of New Jersey? For instance, we're talking about taking soil -- contaminated soil through other communities, possibly, in other states. If something happens during the course of that transport, can these areas go back to New Jersey and say, "You guys were part of an agreement, so we're going to include you in our lawsuit or whatever action we take"?

Shinn: Possible. I mean, it's pretty hard to judge who's going to file a court case against you for what reason.

But when we endorse a project, we acknowledge that liability is there. So we're pretty careful to make sure the remedy's right, the transportation is correct, and the mode of containment of the resource while you're transporting it is appropriate.

So, for instance, the BOMARC site -- we've looked at that process, and -- so we're very close to what's going on in the state, and that's another reason why this agreement's important -- is it just brings all those issues into focus and lets us get on with it, because there's been too much staging in cleanups, generally, and not enough action.

And I think the effort on both our parts is to sort of put an action plan into formation. That way, you can get the budget appropriation identified quicker when you know really what the scope of work is and what your priority list is. And I think that's the bottom line on the goal -- is to get some cleanups under way and get it done.

Goodman: Yes?

Q: Yes. I was curious about the time frame that you're expecting this to go through. I know in Pennsylvania it was a 12-year agreement that was signed. So I was curious as to how long you expect this to take.

McCall: There's no specific time in agreement, but we certainly expect the existing time lines to shorten because of the efficiencies we're going to gain from the agreement itself. But there's no specific dates in this agreement.

Q: What were the existing time lines? I mean --

McCall: They're specific for each service and each site. So the -- and they relate back to the cost of completion numbers. There's a -- the details of each site are in a publicly available report, with all the numbers that Ms. Goodman's been speaking about.

Goodman: Well, it's fair to say that probably if you took at the sites together, it would go out a couple of decades before all the work was done, particularly when you look at the low-risk work --

Q: Right. Right.

Goodman: -- the kind of things that Tad McCall was just talking about, sort of a low-risk site that doesn't require a lot of money. But what this will enable us to do is get some visibility and move some of that work forward and get it done faster.

Q: Is there any one service that is responsible for tackling the bulk of the work in New Jersey? For instance, is this primarily an Air Force problem? Is it primarily an Army problem?

Goodman: I --

Fatz: Well, the Army has three of the five (inaudible word) sites.

Goodman: Yeah.

Fatz: The Army has -- is the executive agent for the formerly used defense sites, which -- there are 75 of those.

Yaroschak: I think the Department of the Navy, for New Jersey, would be one of the smaller ones. We have only three installations, really, and one of them is in a national priorities list, so --

Q: So who's got the bulk? I mean, the Army, then, is the leader in this, with most of the former defense sites? Is that right?

Goodman: Well, the Army is the executive agent for the formerly used defense sites, on behalf of all the services. So if it was a military site, former military site, by any department -- Army, Navy, Air Force -- it will be managed by the Army. And the Army, as Ray Fatz has just said, has three of the five BRAC bases. So I would say that -- the Army probably first, followed by the Air Force, with the Navy and then the Defense Logistics Agency, in that order.

Q: Is there any kind of status report you could offer on Pennsylvania, how many have been cleaned up in x amount of time since the agreement was signed?

Staff: We've closed down about 650 sites last year in the agreement. Those were sites that the Defense Department thought had been completed and Pennsylvania agreed on those. So we got those off the books. This year we're reevaluating many of our cleaned-up sites to make sure they meet, under Pennsylvania's Act 2 law, their requirements, and we'll be closing those out. So we found in two years of implementing the agreement that we've not only been able to close out sites, but we're making sure that the remedies we've placed on our sites are permanent and in full compliance with the Pennsylvania law. And every year we add a few, take a few off. So there's always some that are added each year. But the Pennsylvania agreement will complete the work in Pennsylvania about 10 years earlier than originally planned.

Q: Are there continually sites being added because of new contamination, or is most of this old contamination?

Goodman: The sites that are added, which are small in number compared to the existing number of sites, but are primarily old contamination.

Q: Is there an estimate as to how much money will be saved by this agreement?

Goodman: I gave a figure of about $50 million.

Q: I think somebody mentioned $19,000 for Warren Grove was cut out of the budget last year? What kind of guarantee -- I mean, is this agreement going to have any greater guarantee that the money will be there for these programs? Couldn't it be subject to year-to-year budget deliberations?

Goodman: Well, everything we do in the Department of Defense is subject to annual appropriations, so that, of course, is a given. Given that, we still plan every year a program of environmental restoration work, which is based to a significant extent on the relative risks of the sites. So the higher-risk sites, we try to do that work first, and then the medium and low risk.

Now, if they are, you know, geographically next to each other or there are some other reasons that the work should be combined, or there is strong community interest in a low-risk site at a base closure property for reuse, then, you know, that can affect the order in which that work is done. But as Tad McCall mentioned, one of the virtues of this agreement is that it gives a higher visibility to all the sites in New Jersey within the military departments so that they may be able to move forward some of their lower-risk sites and get that work accomplished sooner.

Okay. Thank you all very much.

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