U.S. Army photo by Todd Mozes
U.S. Army photo by Todd Mozes (Photo Credit: Todd Mozes) VIEW ORIGINAL

If you have been on or near the Picatinny Arsenal golf course in recent weeks and wondered what that large gray object that appears to be a water tank of some sort is, and why it popped up out of nowhere, hopefully this article will answer your question.

A roughly 5000-gallon storage tank was erected temporarily as part of a pilot program to remediate a groundwater plume that contains the hazardous chemical trichloroethene (TCE).

Originating from a former plating facility that operated from 1930-1981, a plume of TCE contaminated groundwater that was the result of mishandling of solvents in the facility has gradually expanded over decades underneath a 90-acre area between Building 24 and Green Pond Brook.

In this newest remedy for the TCE plume – Phase One of the pilot program – Three wells were installed; One well is used to extract groundwater and store in the above-mentioned storage tank. The extracted water is amended with emulsified vegetable oil (EVO) and reinjected back into the ground via two injection wells at two to four gallons per minute during the two-week pilot study.

Crews are working in a cordoned off area that will be operational during normal business hours.

The water/oil mix is recirculated through the injection and collections sites continuously. The process mixes the emulsified oil and groundwater in order to create the desired effect: a desirable environment for bacterial growth within the TCE contaminated groundwater plume: Bacteria are known to chemically break down the TCE in the groundwater.

“This is a pilot scale. This is to test the concept,” said Michael Bolen, Installation Restoration Program and Military Munitions response Program Manager. Bolen is assigned to the Environmental Affairs Division of Picatinny Arsenal’s Department of Public Works.

“They are just treating the wells where this is installed here. If it does work, we will then expand it to a much larger network of wells. There are wells like this all throughout this golf course. Right now, we are only focusing on this area here as a test, and because it is one of the more concentrated areas.”

After testing and analysis of the groundwater verifies how effectively the Phase One effort reduces the contamination levels, a second phase will be designed where more injection and collection sites will be installed to a size and scale suitable to meet the goal of full remediation of the TCE plume.

“If we allow nature to take its course, the timeline for the TCE in the soil here to be dissolved, will take more than 190 years,” Bolen said. “If this works, it will be reduced to approximately 28 years. That’s a huge drop. We don’t know the exact numbers but say there are a thousand parts per billion of TCE, we are looking at probably a 60 percent reduction in the test pilot, which means this is viable technology.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted Arcadis for design, engineering, and consultancy solutions of the remediation effort.

Remediation efforts for the TCE plume began in 1991 with the removal of the dry wells and lagoons that comprised the initial source area of the TCE plume in 1991.

In 2004, the installation installed a $6.4 million pump-and-treat system that treated the groundwater water before it was discharged into Green Pond Brook.

In 2007, a $1.4 million permeable reactive barrier (PRB) was installed to protect Green Pond Brook: Comprised of an iron-based sand-like material, a PRB essentially allows groundwater to pass through while the TCE in the groundwater is broken down into non-hazardous chemical components (e.g., water and carbon dioxide). The costly to operate pump and treat system was removed after the permeable reactive barrier was installed.

Picatinny Arsenal officials increased sampling and monitoring and investigated the PRB in 2018 to determine if it was functioning effectively. After performing core sample analysis, Picatinny determined that the PRB was effective: TCE was being treated as groundwater flowed through the barrier, and that the barrier was not breaking down prematurely as reported in the PICA Sixth Five Year Review Report released in 2021.

Also, there is no human use or contact with Green Pond Brook, and the long-term annual ecological evaluation of the surface water indicates no toxicity for the benthic invertebrates living in Green Pond Brook.

These sampling and monitoring plans and further analysis -- all conducted in accordance with NJDEP and EPA officials -- provided assurance that the permeable reactive barrier and other measures were working to protect human health and the environment.

Even so, the environmental plans for the effort rested primarily on containment of the TCE and also on treatment of the TCE through the PRB, according to Bolen. Picatinny continued to look for methods to remediate the plume more quickly but cost effectively.

In 2019, the Army commenced a focused feasibility study that involved creating a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of injecting an agent that accelerate the attenuation of the TCE plume near the source area. It is hoped that the attenuation of TCE using this process would dramatically reduce the estimated remediation timeline for natural attenuation (from approximately 190 years to approximately 28 years).

The Environmental Protection Agency and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection approved the pilot study work plan in June.

As a result, the first recovery wells were installed in August. The recirculation pilot testing equipment was utilized starting in September. The pilot project is forecasted to cost approximately $1.2 million.


Picatinny Arsenal’s water supply, treatment, and distribution system is operated by American Water Enterprises. Picatinny residents and employees are provided potable drinking water from two ground water supply wells; water is pumped from the wells to a water treatment plant where the TCE is removed prior to distribution. The treated drinking water is tested on a quarterly basis for TCE to ensure that the water distributed to the Picatinny community meets all NJDEP regulations for safe and compliant potable water. For 36 years, Picatinny has been testing its treated drinking water for TCE and has never tested above the State’s Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) of 1 ppb.

A Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) is made available annually, via mail, Picatinny’s Facebook page and American Water’s website: