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Seneca Army Depot Activity (SEDA)
Romulus, NY

The Seneca Army Depot Activity (SEDA) site encompasses 10,587 acres. It lies between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes in the Finger Lakes region and abuts the Town of Romulus. The Army has stored and disposed of military explosives at the facility since 1941. As a result of Base Closure, SEDA has downsized significantly from 1200 to 140 employees. Following recommendation by DoD, approval by the Base Closure Commission, the President and Congress, SEDA was approved for the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list in October 1995. The mission closure date was scheduled for September 30, 1999. Installation closure date was September 30, 2000, with 22 employees after that date. Current reuse plans project that most of the property will be transferred to the state for a wildlife refuge; some parts of the base will be transferred to various prison and correctional authorities.

The BRAC commission said closing Seneca would cost taxpayers $15 million, but ultimately save DoD $21 million annually once Seneca finally closes in 2001. The closure announcement came as no surprise to many Seneca Depot workers. Its mission as an ammunition and storage supply facility saw a drastic change in 1992. That's when the Army eliminated Seneca's special weapons mission and transferred many of its logistics missions to the Defense Logistics Agency. Because of those mission changes, the depot -- Seneca County's largest employer at the time -- lost over 550 civilian positions through RIFs, as well as 500 military members.

Existing structures at SEAD include 519 igloos, 8 standard magazines, 2 inert magazines, 2 small arms warehouses and 19 general purpose warehouses. National Guard and Army Reserve units currently conduct annual training at SEAD (Seneca Army Depot Activity 1994). The DOD placed SEAD on the BRAC list in 1995.

When the Army arrived in Seneca, New York in 1941, the nearly 10,000 acres in Central New York State were abundant farmland. In June 1941, the War Department approved the munitions project, and in July 1941, construction for the Seneca Ordnance Depot (Depot) began. Construction workers completed nearly 500 storage igloos and six above ground magazines by the end of the year. With the construction of the administrative area, ammunition facilities, warehouses, utility structures and a few housing quarters completed in 1943, the Depot began its primary mission of receipt, storage, maintenance and supply of ammunition. As a filler Depot, it also issued and reconditioned ammunition for the First and Second Service Commands and for the Boston Port of Embarkation. This included all classes of ammunition and explosives except chemical ammunition other than smoke. In 1946, the Army assigned the Depot to the First Army, which included the New England States of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Established in 1941, the Demolition Pits served as the grounds for conducting ammunition disassembly, detonation and burning. This included numerous types of ammunition, components, guided missiles and explosives. An Explosive Scrap Furnace supported the detonation operation at the site. The Burn Pads functioned as the burning area for ammunition and ordnance contaminated material such as bulk explosives, pyrotechnics, artillery projectiles, fuzes, machine gun ammunition and projectiles using TNT The nine burn pads are identified as A - I. Pads G and J were used for trash containing contamination from propellants, explosives and pyrotechnics. The Demolition Pits and Burning Pads together comprise 90 acres of demolition area at SEAD.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Area has been active since 1941 and bomb squad training occurred there for many years. Depot personnel performed detonations of conventional ammunition and explosives weighing less than 5 pounds. The Ammunition Disassembly Plant buildings are also near the EOD area. The Army built them in the 1940's and 1950's. Army Reserve and National Guard troops utilized a Grenade Range near the EOD Range. All evidence indicates the troops used practice/training grenades only.

During the 1940's, the Army stored radioactive materials in connection with the Manhattan Project in igloos E0801 through E0811, on the south end of the Depot. The Army RADCON team performed a survey on these igloos during the week of 13 May 1985.

Surveillance Laboratory activities began during the 1941 thru 1943 time period in buildings 17 and 18. Throughout World War II (WWII) inspectors determined suitability of ammunition, ammunition components and explosives for storage and issue. Sample lots were continually inspected for serviceable condition (Seneca Ordnance Depot 1945a). The Army built Bundle Ammunition Packing Buildings near the Surveillance Laboratory during 1941 thru 1943.

The original Popping Plant, Building S311, was built during 1942 and 1943. The Abandoned Deactivation Furnace is located in this building. An additional Popping Plant, Building 367, was built near the original one in 1961. The existing Deactivation Furnace was active in Building 367 from 1962 thru 1989. The furnace at the Popping Plant processed fired brass or steel cartridge cases at a temperature of 1,400" F. Cartridge cases having a live primer were popped and rendered inert.

During 1941 thru 1943 the Army constructed several warehouse buildings on SEAD outside the fenced igloo area. These buildings stored general supplies and possibly small arms ammunition. The Small Arms Storage Building, Number 333, dates back to 1941 thru 1943. The Army constructed Ordnance Repair Shops in 1941 thru 1943 for maintenance on all depot vehicles and equipment. The Combat Equipment Area, established in 1942, was approximately 4.5 acres and was used to store all types of inert material including Jeeps, command cars, tanks, carryalls, etc.

As the Depot experienced an increase of returned ammunition from overseas after WWII, the mission shifted from supply to storage maintenance and disposal. The Army also tasked SEAD with receipt, storage, care and maintenance of general supplies. In 1950, the Army constructed Ammunition Workshops in two locations and SEAD personnel conducted washout, refuzing, removal, deboostering and normal maintenance on rocket heads, high explosive shells, fuzes and hand grenades. The renovation and demilitarization of ammunition also included surveillance function testing. SEAD personnel sampled test lots of ammunition, including pyrotechnics, establishing the degree of serviceability.

Due to the increase in ammunition returned from overseas, and returns from Posts, Camps and Stations in 1946, the Army built outside storage sheds, also known as 'X' sites, and outside storage pads for storage of 2,000 pound bombs and other ammunition (Seneca Ordnance Depot 1945a). In January 1949, there were 26,480 tons of small arms ammunition of all conditions and grades in outside storage. By 1955, the Army sent 737 tons of grade 3 small arms ammunition and 2,093 tons of 20mm ammunition into open unprotected storage at Seneca Ordnance Depot (Warren 1955). In addition to outside storage, the Army constructed a Magazine Area, Buildings 701 thru 708, in 1954 thru 1956 for storing ammunition.

The Army established Sampson Air Force Base in 1942 as a Navy Training Center. The Base was an Air Force training facility from 1950 until 1957. On June 24, 1958, the Department of the Air Force transferred 622.87 acres of the former Sampson Air Force Base to SEAD. This addition included a 5,000 foot long paved runway and the Lake Housing Area.

A Small Arms Range (aka 3.5" Rocket Range) is located on the northeastern portion of SEAD. A large berm is currently present. In addition to small arms, to include tracers and blanks, 3.5 inch rockets are reported to have been used there.

Construction on the Liquid Propellant Test Laboratory, Building 606, began in July 1955. Laboratory personnel conducted operational or functional testing of explosive devices. These tests are believed to have occurred on the concrete foundation northwest of Building 606. Since 1976, herbicides and pesticides have been stored in Building 606. Construction of the Fuze Storage Building, in connection with Eastman Kodak Company and Picatinny Arsenal, began in September 1955.

Soldiers and Security Guards utilized Range 114 and Building 2302 for shotgun and revolver practice as well as rifle and machine gun firing. Between 1976 and 1979, the Army constructed a skeet and trap range adjacent to the rifle range. The Army built the Ronald Lee Kostenbader Physical Activity Center, Building 744, in 1981. The lower level of this building was used as a firing and indoor rifle range.

Ammunition Inspectors from SEAD regularly sent ammunition, including unserviceable 150 pound bombs in June 1945 and 62,000 high explosive anti-tank mines in April 1946, to Pine Camp for demilitarization. The Army redesignated Pine Camp as Camp Drum in 1951, and finally as Fort Drum in 1974. Proposals for dumping ammunition at sea during 1955 thru 1957 required approval from Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) Earle, New Jersey. The Ordnance Corps contemplated sending various types of unserviceable ammunition from SEAD to NAD Earle for sea disposal. Historical documents do not indicate if shipments occurred.

Governor George E. Pataki announced in May 1999 a comprehensive redevelopment plan to redevelop the 11,000-acre Seneca Army Depot. As part of the redevelopment plan, a $14.5 million investment is renovating 300,000 square-feet of space and upgrading infrastructure, creating the KidsPeace Seneca Woods Campus. This project alone will create 367 new jobs. The Seneca Woods Campus will treat many of the 1,200 New York children who currently are sent out-of-state for specialized treatment. The program will offer therapeutic and intensive residential programs, a diagnostic assessment shelter, a residential program for children with clinical emotional problems and a history of delinquency, educational/vocational training and a comprehensive after-care program consisting of supervision and support networks.

The Seneca Army Depot redevelopment project also consists of a new $180 million, 750-cell correctional facility. The facility opened in summer of 2000, creating 638 new permanent jobs and 191 spin-off jobs. In addition, the State Police opened a training center for state police and local police agencies. The area will also houses a new fire training tower for local volunteer firefighters.

Seneca Army Depot is participating in the Installation Restoration Program (IRP), established in 1978. Under this program, the Department of Defense seeks to identify, investigate, and clean up contamination from hazardous materials.

Previous demilitarization of munitions had been conducted for forty years by open burning of fuses, projectiles, explosives and propellants directly upon the ground surface. These activities adversely impacted soil at the OB Grounds and sediments in Reeder Creek, with concentrations of lead in soil as high as 56,700 mg/kg. The proposed remedy includes clearance of unexploded ordnance in the area of the remedial action, excavation of soils with concentrations of lead above 500 mg/kg (based on human health risks) and sediments from Reeder Creek with concentrations of lead above 31 mg/kg and copper above 16 mg/kg (NYSDEC standards to protect benthic aquatic life); solidification/stabilization of 3,800 cubic yards of soils that are expected to exceed TCLP limits; off-site disposal of soil, solidified soil and sediment with total quantity of 17,900 cubic yards; providing 9 inches of clean fill with revegetation over remaining soils where concentrations of lead exceed 60 mg/kg (from guidelines published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service); and conducting appropriate post-remediation groundwater monitoring to ensure groundwater is not impacted in the future by the remaining lead in the soil.

Operations at the Munitions Washout Facility and Leach Field included dismantling and removing explosives from munitions by steam cleaning. Details of the operation and the wastewater discharge locations are not well known by the Army, but some wastewater may have been discharged into a pond area.

Burial of laboratory wastes occurred between 1940 and 1980 at the Radioactive Waste Burial Sites and the Pitchblende Storage Igloos. These pits were excavated in 1987, with the waste shipped to an authorized off-site radioactive waste landfill. During the 1950s and 1960s wastewater generated from washing radioactive contaminated clothing was stored in a 5000 gallon tank. In 1987 SEDA attempted to remove the tank, but then back filled it in place. During the 1950s and 1960s, "classified" metallic parts were buried at the Miscellaneous Components Burial Site. Since the documentation related to the disposal is considered classified by the Army, the exact nature of the buried material has not been disclosed. Results of site investigations indicate that previous activities may have adversely impacted soil and groundwater.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:56:34 ZULU