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Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL)

Low temperatures and harsh weather prevail over nearly 50 percent of the world's land mass during the winter, where snow, ice, frozen ground, and extended darkness make life difficult for both the military and civilians. Moreover, the cold regions of the world, where 25 percent of the land mass is underlain by permafrost or covered by glaciers and much of the polar seas are covered by ice, provide additional challenges. CRREL's research and engineering programs are focused on meeting the requirements of military force readiness and projection, making the military infrastructure more affordable, and mitigating the effects of winter on the Corps of Engineers' civil works water resources projects.

The Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory offers a unique set of scientific research capabilities and resources. Our diverse scientific research facilities are available for use by Department of Defense and other federal agencies, state and local governments, private industry, and academia. CRREL offers specialized physical facilities, equipment, instrumentation, scientific expertise, and operations personnel, with many facilities specifically designed for the detailed scientific study of ice, snow, and frozen ground.

The Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) is located at 72 Lyme Road, Hanover, New Hampshire 03775. The property is approximately 2 miles north from the town of Hanover, New Hampshire, and is bordered on the west by the Connecticut River. CRREL is located on a 30 acre lot in Hanover, New Hampshire. Dartmouth College purchased the land from Walter Record of Hanover, New Hampshire in 1932. In 1960, CRREL leased 19.2 acres of land from Dartmouth College for the purpose of constructing a research facility. Prior to 1960, the land was used for agricultural purposes. Gravel was also mined on the western edge bordering the Connecticut River. In 1982, CRREL expanded, and purchased an 11 acre lot. This additional land lies on the western border of the original leased property.

The daily work population consists of approximately seven military and 303 civilian personnel. No one lives on the installation. As the Army's center of expertise in cold regions science and engineering, CRREL focuses on the technology base needed for the Army and other Department of Defense (DoD) agencies to operate effectively in winter and cold regions conditions. Functional areas are Cold Regions Technology, Military Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Construction and Facilities Support, and Civil Works.

In late October 1990, the Air Force notified the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) that experiments conducted at the Laboratory in 1984-85 could have caused potential ground water contamination with tetrachloroethylene (PCE). As a result, the Laboratory's in-house chemistry capabilities were used to analyze the water from four industrial cooling wells and a nearby municipal water supply. Although the tests proved negative for PCE, they revealed elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) in three of the four industrial wells. Additional sites on CRREL property were tested for TCE contamination, and elevated TCE levels were also at the site of the previously buried TCE tank.

TCE was the secondary refrigerant of CRREL's main laboratory between 1960-87. During this period, TCE was not known as a suspected carcinogen, and so the chemical was not handled as a hazardous waste. Quantities lost in day-to-day leaks in the machinery were never recorded. Also during this time, it was not uncommon for used TCE to be discarded directly into the ground.

Several significant events may have also contributed to elevated TCE levels in the ground. A gasket blow-out of an evaporator caused over 6000 gallons of TCE to spill onto the floor of the machine room in May 1970. Although most of the liquid was evacuated to a storage tank, much of it went down the floor drains, which lead to the sewer system.

In July 1970, an above-ground TCE tank exploded, and approximately 3000 gallons of TCE was flushed into the storm system by the fire department (this was the accepted practice at that time). Finally, in 1978, the experimental ice well was shut down for repairs to the heat exchanger. The water in the well, which was noted to be contaminated with TCE, was pumped, and was eventually pored into the storm drain or into the ground with the rest of the CRREL's discard TCE.

Presently, there is virtually no TCE being used or stored on CRREL property. Almost all of the TCE was removed from CRREL in 1987, when the refrigeration system was modified to use Freon. The TCE contaminated water from the industrial wells, however, is circulated for cooling. Once circulated, the water enters the storm drains, and is eventually fed into the Connecticut River (CRREL has been granted an emergency exclusion by EPA, from New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services discharge permit requirements due to the elevated levels of TCE in its groundwater). Although the TCE levels are elevated at the outfall, they are non-detectable 50 feet from the point discharge. In attempt to find the TCE plume, nearby wells are also being monitored for TCE contamination. To this date, there has been no conclusive evidence linking the TCE in CRREL's groundwater to the contamination of other water wells.

On-going monitoring is being conducted for five industrial wells, a two-hundred foot deep well used for experiments, and at the site of a previously buried TCE tank. CRREL is working with the United States Army Toxic and Hazardous Materials Agency (USATHAMA) and the Corps of Engineers New England Division (NED) and has installed a treatment system for CRREL's outflow of TCE-contaminated water into the Connecticut River. Two Remedial Investigations have been completed. Subsequent remedial activities for all sites include the submission of a Remedial Action Plan (RAP), remediation of the source areas and long-term monitoring under a groundwater management permit.


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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:46:33 ZULU