Buxton Naval Facility

The Buxton Naval Facility Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) property was used by the U.S. Navy as a submarine monitoring station. The Department of Defense (DoD) acquired the 49.99-acre property on 9 February 1956 through a special use permit with the National Park Service (NPS) and subsequently eight additional acres from private parties for the facility. The Buxton Naval Facility continued to operate until closure on 30 June 1982. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) subsequently used the property until 2010, at which point it was returned to NPS.

The Buxton Naval Facility FUDS property contains three projects. Below is a summary of each project:

  • Project 01: On 1 February 1989, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Savannah District created Project 01 to remove seven aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) (six 1,000-gallon tanks and one 57.6’ x 14’ tank), followed by environmental testing and sampling to determine the need for further action. In 1991, three additional ASTs (one 3,000 gallon, one 4,000 gallon, and one 7,000 gallon tank) were removed from the property. USACE determined no further action was required on 30 September 1993 and the project was closed out on 30 September 2009. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), currently known as the Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), concurred with closeout of the project.
  • Project 02: On 17 May 1991, the USACE created Project 02 to demolish and remove a communications tower. However, NPS and USCG informed USACE that the tower was still being used. Accordingly, no demolition or removal activities occurred and USACE closed out the project on 30 September 1991.
  • Project 03: On 20 August 1998, USACE created Project 03 to address soil contamination discovered at the grease ramp/oil change ramp (OCR), Building 9, and underground piping after the USCG’s removal of 27 underground storage tanks (USTs). 
    • Under Project 03, USACE prepared a Comprehensive Site Assessment (CSA) Report in February 2001. The assessment field work included the installation of 10 groundwater monitoring wells, and the collection of soil, groundwater, surface water, and sediment samples for laboratory analysis. In March 2000, during the field work, a fuel oil pipeline connecting an AST and Building 9 were removed and closure sampling revealed soil and grease contamination in the soil. Six additional monitoring wells were installed, and additional sampling was conducted. Naphthalene was detected above NCDENR standards in one groundwater well.
    • In December 2001, the USACE prepared a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). The investigation focused on the former AST pad near Building 7, Building 9, the OCR between Buildings 6 and 7, and Building 19. The CAP recommended the installation of 2 new groundwater monitoring wells near the OCR, demolition and removal of the concrete OCR structure, remediation of soil by excavation and thermal treatment, and monitored natural attenuation of groundwater.
    • In 2004, the USACE removed approximately 4,006 tons (2,706 cubic yards) of contaminated soil, demolished and removed the OCR, collected 30 confirmation samples, and documented this action in a January 2005 report.  Excavations were typically to a depth of seven feet below ground surface (bgs) and confirmation sampling confirmed all contaminated soil had been removed with the exception of one sample due to the presence of critical utilities and an existing road. The contaminated soil was taken to an approved land farm in Martin County, NC.
    • Since 2005, the USACE has performed 32 groundwater monitoring events to evaluate groundwater contaminant concentrations. The most recent event occurred in March 2024. The USACE also conducted groundwater injection treatment with two events in 2020 and 2021. Groundwater monitoring data indicates the injection events have been successful as petroleum contaminant concentrations in the groundwater have decreased significantly. Preliminary data from the March 2024 groundwater sampling event indicate the concentrations of all petroleum constituents are below North Carolina groundwater quality standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 Q: What is the Corps’ authority to clean up Formerly Used Defense Sites?

A: Congress established the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) on 17 October 1986 with passage of Section 211 of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). The DERP includes several different programs, one of which is the Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) Program. The Department of Defense (DOD) tasked the U.S. Army with carrying out the FUDS program and execution of the program was delegated to USACE. FUDS restoration efforts are restricted to cleaning up properties formerly owned by, leased to, or otherwise possessed, by the Unites States and transferred outside DOD control prior to October 1986.

For more information about DERP, click on the following link:

https://www.denix.osd.mil/derp/about/

For more information about the FUDS Program, click on the following link:

https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Formerly-Used-Defense-Sites/

 Q: What environmental restoration activities has USACE performed at the Buxton Naval Facility FUDS Property

A: As mentioned above in the summary of projects, USACE has performed significant environmental restoration actions within the Buxton Naval Facility FUDS Property, including removal of storage tanks and performance of a corrective action to remediate soil and groundwater. USACE, in close coordination with the NCDEQ, will continue to do everything within given authorities to address this area to ensure protection of human health and well-being of the community and environment.

 Q: Why does USACE have to find a source? Isn’t it obvious there is petroleum that needs to be cleaned up?

A: Since September 2023, reports of petroleum, sheen, and odors at Cape Hatteras National Seashore have been periodic and limited to a three-tenths of a mile section of beach. The National Park Service has kept this section of beach closed. In coordination with NPS, USACE has been diligently investigating potential sources of petroleum that could have prompted the reports. This small section of beach; however, is a dynamic environment in which conditions can change daily from tidal action or from erosion/accretion events. Given these difficulties, USACE must first identify a location or source of potential Navy related petroleum and whether the petroleum is of an actionable level before any corrective action can be planned in coordination with NCDEQ.

 Q: What efforts has USACE undertaken to identify the source of the petroleum?

A: Since petroleum was first reported in September, USACE has been diligently investigating the beach to find potential sources that could have resulted in the odors, sheen, and contaminated organic material that have been reported. In response to each report, USACE sent teams in September, October, November, December, and February to collect soil samples, perform borings, dig test pits, and take air samples, all in an effort to identify a potential source. USACE is currently investigating a protruding pipe with a petroleum odor as a potential source.

 Q: Did USACE demolish and remove structures and buildings in the 80s?

A: In 1985, USACE removed two buildings (#40 and #19) and appurtenant structures from the former Buxton Naval Facility. The funding and authority were provided in a 1984 Congressional appropriation that provided specific authority to remove “unsafe or unsightly buildings and debris.” The Corps found the two buildings and appurtenant structures to be unsightly, not unsafe. These appropriations, which granted narrow authority, have long since expired and are no longer available.

 Q: Does USACE have current legal authority to remove the remnant Navy Infrastructure being exposed by erosion?

A: When Congress created the FUDS Program in 1986, building demolition and debris removal work was limited to “unsafe” buildings and structures in such a state when transferred out of DOD control. When the Navy ceased control of the Buxton Naval Facility in 1982, buildings and structures were safe, and the vast majority of the facility was subsequently and beneficially used by the U.S. Coast Guard. Current unsafe conditions are a result of the remnant Navy infrastructure being exposed by erosion on the beach. These conditions did not exist when the property was transferred from Navy control in 1982. For these reasons, USACE does not have the authority under the FUDS Program to address these conditions. This question has been considered and evaluated by USACE’s highest organizational levels.

 Q: When will the beach be safely reopened?

A: The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is currently under the administrative custody, control, and management of the U.S. National Park Service. USACE does not have control over access to the beach. Questions regarding the beach closure or its management should be directed to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

 Q: Can you provide more detail regarding the groundwater contamination and how it was determined to be unrelated to observations on the beach?

A: USACE removed petroleum contaminated soil in 2004 and has been remediating the groundwater since 2005. USACE experts injected a product into the groundwater that treats petroleum-related contamination at varying levels. From there, USACE has performed quarterly sampling of groundwater to verify the remaining contamination is decreasing. These sampling events are ongoing. For a while now, the only remaining contamination consisted of low levels of methylnaphthalene in one monitoring well. Methylnaphthalene is a daughter product of petroleum, and the low levels indicated the source was being addressed. As of March 2024, groundwater sampling results indicate that detected concentrations of any petroleum contaminants were below the Environmental Protection Agency Regional Screening Levels and North Carolina 02L Groundwater Standards.

 Q: Why was a pipe removed between May 06 – May 16?

A: In February, with the assistance of the NPS, USACE identified a pipe that had recently been exposed by erosion and was reported to be emitting a petroleum odor. To further investigate whether the pipe is a potential source of petroleum, USACE hired a contractor to remove the pipe and perform confirmatory sampling around the pipe to determine if it leaked.

 Q: What are the results of the pipe removal? What are the next steps?

A: USACE removed between 70-80 feet of pipe and found that the pipe was not connected to a tank. Samples taken during the pipe removal were sent to labs for evaluation. USACE is currently waiting upon the sampling results. The results are needed to determine next steps, which will be coordinated with NCDEQ.

News Releases

Corps of Engineers plans for more work at Buxton FUDS property
6/13/2024
SAVANNAH, Ga. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to conduct geophysical work to identify any potential fuel distribution components remaining at the Buxton Naval Facility, a Formerly Used...
Buxton FUDS pipe removal work completed, results pending
5/21/2024
SAVANNAH, Ga. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, has completed the pipe removal work at the former Buxton Naval Facility Formerly Used Defense Sites property in Dare County North...
Army Corps of Engineers invites Buxton community to meeting
5/10/2024
SAVANNAH, Ga. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, in coordination with the Dare County Board of Commissioners, would like to invite the Buxton community to a public meeting Tuesday,...
Contract to remove potential source of petroleum awarded ahead of schedule
5/3/2024
SAVANNAH, Ga. – Leadership from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Division and the Savannah District conducted a site visit to Buxton, North Carolina, May 1, 2024, to meet with...
Corps of Engineers completes report on Buxton Beach contamination
3/28/2024
BUXTON, N.C. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, has completed its Summary Report of site visits occurring from September 2023 through February 2024 on a section of shoreline in...
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Works to Address Petroleum Soil Found Along Shoreline at Buxton
10/23/2023
BUXTON, N.C. (USACE) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, has completed its initial analysis of historical documentation, information gathered during site visits and soil samples...

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