Cape Canaveral's Hazardous Waste Generated from the Department of Defense

Did you know that Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has an Open Burn Unit and Open Detonation Unit? They destroy excess, obsolete, explosives and munitions by igniting, causing releases of emissions. An open detonation is a form of uncontrolled incineration. It is a process that can lead to toxic releases and exposures. The hazardous waste generated from the Department of Defense operation consists of ignitable waste, toxic waste, solvent waste, and reactive waste. The waste allowed for storage consists of 55-gallon drums full of hazardous waste.

Even more interesting is that one of the contaminants they are disposing of is perchlorate. High concentrations of perchlorate have been detected primarily at Formerly Used Defense Sites historically involved in manufactured, testing, and disposal of ammunition and rocket fuel. The Department of Defense has used perchlorate since the 1940s. 

Perchlorate has been found in drinking water, groundwater, surface water, and soil across the United States. Health studies have shown that it can affect the thyroid gland and may cause developmental impairments in pregnant women's fetuses.

In 2005, EPA asked Patrick Air Force Base and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to sample groundwater for perchlorate near rock launch sites. Previously, both installations inventoried areas where perchlorate was suspected and conducted limited sampling. DoD officials did not find perchlorate at Patrick Air Force Base, and the Department of the Air Force said it would not conduct additional sampling at either installation until there was a federal standard for perchlorate.

Just this year, the EPA finalized a decision not to impose any limits on perchlorate. The Defense Department and military contractors such as Lockheed Martin have made aggressive efforts to block regulation on this chemical.

The EPA does not track or monitor perchlorate detections, or the status of cleanup activities. EPA officials do not always know whether other federal and state agencies found perchlorate because there is no requirement for states or other federal agencies to routinely report perchlorate findings to EPA. For Example, except as required under specific environmental programs, the Department of Defense is not required to report to EPA when perchlorate is found on active installation and facilities. Even where EPA has authorized states to implement the RCRA program, states are not required to routinely notify EPA about perchlorate found under the program. 

Contaminants Disposed of in the Open Burn Unit and Open Detonation Unit at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station:

  • HMX (Octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetra-nitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine)
  • RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-tri-nitro-1,3,5-triazine)
  • 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene (1,3,5-TNB)
  • methyl-2,4,6-trinitrophenylnitramine
  • 1,3-dinitrobenzene (1,3-DNB)
  • nitrobenzene
  • 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (2,4,6-TNT)
  • 4-amino-2,6-dinitrotoluene (4-Am-DNT)
  • 2-amino-4,6-dinitrotoluene (2-Am-DNT)
  • 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT)
  • 2,6-dinitrotoluene (2,6-DNT)
  • 2-nitrotoluene(2-NT)
  • 3-nitrotoluene (3-NT)
  • 4-nitrotoluene(4-NT)
  • nitroglycerin
  • PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate)
  • nitrate
  • nitrite
  • sulfate
  • diethyl phthalate
  • arsenic
  • lead
  • selenium
  • potassium
  • titanium
  • magnesium
  • barium
  • vanadium
  • chromium
  • cadmium
  • copper
  • aluminum
  • perchlorate



EPA Technical Fact Sheet:


History of Perchlorate health effects:

Document government discussion:

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