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Military Brownfield Close to Redevelopment after 30+ Year Remediation & Cleanup Effort

City of Suffolk

Suffolk, VA

As a former munitions storage site, Nansemond Ordnance Depot required significant cleanup to remedy soil contamination. The 30+ year effort and removal of over 6,200 munitions is almost complete. Commercial, residential development and public access trails are planned for the reclaimed waterfront property.

Topics Covered

Redevelopment & Brownfields


Initial: Zero Upfront Cost


Federal grants

Project Status

Operational since 1999

Problem Addressed

Located in Suffolk Virginia, the former Nansemond Ordnance Depot occupies 975 acres of waterfront property on the James River and includes an abandoned landfill and an offshore area that extends to the James River and Nansemond River channels.

Originally known as Pig Point Ordnance Depot but renamed in 1929, the area played host to the U.S. Department of the Army starting in 1917 primarily in service as a munitions storage site. In April 1945, the Depot was demobilized and actions carried out included the destruction of unserviceable explosives, ammunition, and chemicals. In 1960 the site was declared excess by the federal government and began to be distributed to various entities for redevelopment.

In 1987, far removed from its military past and home to a community college among other developments, the site became a high-priority target for cleanup as an environmental hazard after a piece of crystalline TNT was found on the campus.

Solutions Used

Short-term cleanups began in 1988 and it became immediately clear that the project would be a serious undertaking.

Between 1988-1991, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) removed 4,400 pounds of munitions boosters, 1,360 pounds of munitions/miscellaneous ordnance (among which were found 19 live British shells), and 30,275 pounds of soil contaminated with lead and TNT. Later excavations would find 31,450 pounds of ordnance material in excavated soil stockpiled during the construction of a future stormwater detention pond, including 60 mm mortars.

The site was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List in 1999 due to extensive contamination in disposal pits, fill and demolition areas, holding tanks, trenches, and off-shore dumping areas. The long-term cleanup effort was led by the EPA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, working in collaboration. Along with eliminating the environmental threat posed by the site, the collaborating partners were tasked with developing a plan for what the site could become in the future through redevelopment.

The first action taken with the aid and might of the EPA was a 1999 agreement for the time-critical removal of ordnance and explosive hazards at the former Nansemond Ordnance Depot. Time-critical removal actions included restricting access to the James River Beachfront and Nansemond River Beachfront disposal areas, as well as further removal of buried munitions at five specific sites and performing post-removal site control at these sites.

Physical removal of munitions at these sites began in March of 2000 and was completed in June of 2004.

Looking at the portions of the site that remained undeveloped, The USACE performed the removal of contents from the landfill and stabilization of the shoreline at the James River Beachfront disposal area. A further remedial investigation was completed for the Horseshoe Pond Disposal area, previously used for the disposal and burning of solid waste and ordnance.

With remedial action anticipated to end sometime in 2023 or 2024, plans for redevelopment include a commercial park, complete with a workforce development center and hotels, and a waterfront park with trails for public access.



A 30+ year effort removed over 6,200 munitions is almost complete. Commercial, residential development and public access trails are planned for the reclaimed waterfront property.


After cleanup is completed, the county’s residents will benefit from access to the waterfront as well as a 16-acre freshwater lake.


The county will benefit from developing the last large piece of waterfront property left in the area.


After cleanup is concluded, there will be no danger to residents from groundwater or soil contamination.

Who Should Consider

Cities or counties with few places to build and that have brownfield sites sitting on valuable land.

Last Updated

Mar 31st, 2022
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