Joliet Army Ammunition Plant Bioremediation

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Wilmington, Illinois
Date of Execution: May 1999

Significant Project Features:

  • Treatment of up to 250,000 dry tons of munitions manufacturing waste-contaminated soils by composting.
  • Construct three treatment buildings (25,000 SF each) and stockpile management unit capable of holding 20,000 tons of material.
  • Excavate, transport, screen, biocomposite and stockpile 40,000 dry tons of contaminated soil per year.
  • Required to meet stringent treatment goals:
Pre-Treatment Concentrations   Remediation Goals 
• 2,4,6 TNT 1,100 ppm   • 2,4,6 TNT 190 ppm
• 2,4 DNT 800 ppm   • 2,4 DNT 8.4 ppm
• 2,6 DNT 1,800 ppm   • 2,6 DNT 8.4 ppm

History and Location of Project

The Joliet Army Ammunition Plant site is a former U.S. Army munitions manufacturing facility located in Will County, Illinois. The facility was constructed during World War II for the purpose of manufacturing, loading, assembling, packing and shipping bombs, projectiles, fuses and supplementary charges. Production gradually slowed until it ceased in 1977. Past manufacturing operations led to contamination of soil and groundwater at the site. Remediation at JOAAP is implemented in accordance with an approved Record of Decision (ROD). Montgomery Watson Harza was contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District under a Total Environmental Restoration Contract (TERC) to manage site remediation activities at JOAAP. Sevenson was awarded a multi-year subcontract under a competitive proposal to implement explosives remediation from fourteen (14) sites using a compositing bioremediation methodology.

Description of Work

The scope of work requires Sevenson to implement all activities associated with bioremediating explosives contaminated soils generated during remedial action activities at JOAAP. This includes the movement of soil from an adjacent stockpile area, maintenance of the stockpile area, processing of the soil to remove oversize material, amendment addition, loading the amended soil into the treatment building facilities, treatment of the soil to meet remediation goals, and removal of the treated soil from the treatment area to a designated stockpile area adjacent to the treatment facility. In addition, oversize material is pressure washed as appropriate and stockpiled for disposal in a designated location. Material volume is estimated at 250,000 to 300,000 dry tons of contaminated soils.

Base Year Operations

First year remediation operations required Sevenson to meet three important objectives:

  • Design and construct the bioremediation compost facility. The facility is comprised of a 200,000 ton storage area, four (4) steel treatment buildings which are approximately 25,000 SF each and the construction if additional support areas. The compost facility was sized to treat 40,000 dry tons of soil per year.
  • Pilot Scale Field Demonstration. A field demonstration was performed prior to full-scale treatment implementing methods representative of full-scale treatment. Nine (9) individual compost windrows were constructed under varying parameters to develop data for process optimization. Variables included amendment recipe, amendment-addition timing, soil-loading rate, turning frequency and pile-conditions management approaches.

Compost physical and chemical properties were monitored to determine compost conditions relative to explosive contaminant reduction. While the piles interspace oxygen content and pH affected the rate of biochemical activity. Temperature and moisture-content were found to be key indicators of compost bioremediation kinetics.

  • Additional objectives included:
    • Confirm and refine the compost bioremediation process performance; 
    • Refine and optimize materials handling and operation procedures; 
    • Refine and optimize field monitoring and analysis methods; 
    • Obtain finished compost physical characteristics data; 
    • Determine and select the optimum amendment recipe; and 
    • Determine and select the optimum soil loading rate.

During the pilot-scale test, the levels of key process indicator contaminants (i.e. 2,4,6-TNT; 2,4-DNT, 2,6-DNT and Tetryl) were measured frequently using field and laboratory methods. Primarily, TNT- and DNT-dimer concentrations were used as indicators to evaluate the rates of decomposition. These two dimers were selected owing to their availability in a rapid field-test. This type of test has been successfully used by the authors on other projects establishing their reliability.

Various blends of amendments and soil to amendment ratios were selected and applied in nine (9) batches. The parameter variations were designed to develop data to determine the optimal explosive degradation environment. Amendments were selected based on data including; carbon:nitrogen ratios, structure, porosity, degradability, moisture-content, handling-ease, local availability and cost. These amendments were combined to create two initial composting blends. The two blends were then mixed and combined with contaminated soils in various ratios.

Several truckloads of soil, representing contaminated soil at the JOAPP site, were excavated and screened. The selected contaminated-soil was placed on an asphalt-slab in nine (9) batches or windrows. All demonstration activities were conducted on an asphalt-slab over a secondary liner provided at the site. This slab drained into a confined area that was a continuous part of the activity area. Any runoff water from the demonstration area drained into this pond. This water was either treated prior to discharge or hld and utilized in the full-scale composting process.

Manure, wood chips, stable bedding, and spent biodigestor waste were placed in the amendment staging areas. From there, amendments were proportioned according to the mix design for each windrow. The amendments were mixed using a front-end loader and a straddle type, compost windrow turner. The blended amendments were then mixed with the contaminated soil to form each windrow.

The straddle turner was used to periodically mix each pile. This mixing blended the soil with the amendments to ensure rapid and thorough degradation. The heavy clay soil tended to ball and clump. Repeated mixing broke down the clay clumps and evenly distributed the amendments. This activity also distributed the contamination evenly and allowed the composting bioremediation to affect all of the explosive compounds. In addition to homogenization, mixing incorporated air into the compost matrix. As previously discussed, this air, or more specifically the oxygen in the air, was an important component of the composting process essential for aerobic biological activity. The activity not only contributed to the explosives degradation it provided heat to maintain rapid degradation rates. The heat not only stimulated aerobic activity it helped to maintain a high quality anaerobic complement within the pile.

Other factors were critical to optimize degradation. Moisture content, pH and temperature were monitored frequently. Water addition, turning frequency and timing were adjusted as needed to maintain the best possible conditions in each pile.

The demonstration gathered data on the pre-blending of amendments, amendment recipe, soil load, turning-frequency, time- and cost-efficient field and laboratory methods, and system parameter boundaries (i.e. moisture, temperature, etc.). Furthermore, the demonstration supported that the primary accepted methods in evaluating compost bioremediation residuals were toxicity and leachability tests.

The enhanced composting bioremediation techniques utilized by Sevenson at JOAAP proved to degrade energetic contaminants over relatively short time periods. The techniques include real-time field optimization feed-back systems that ensure efficient and effective bioremediation of the contaminants.

  • Treat 13,000 tons of contaminated material.

Year One (1) Operations

Sevenson continued composting operations and successfully met the requirements of the contract treating 30,000 tons of material.

Year Two (2) Operations

Sevenson has negotiated this option year which requires the firm to treat an additional 40,000 tons of material.

Year Three (3) Operations

Sevenson has negotiated this option year which requires the firm to treat an additional 40,000 tons of material.

Health and Safety Overview:

  • Unique Characteristics: Explosives contamination in soil presented energetic and toxicological hazards. All work performed under U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Health and Safety Guidelines.
  • Health and Safety Measures: Work performed in Level C. Extensive air monitoring requirements including real time and integrated sampling methods implemented.
  • Health and Safety Staff: One (1) Full time On-Site Health and Safety Officer.
  • How 40-Hour Training Was Implemented: Labor force trained by Local Trade Unions, Management trained by in-house personnel.


Client's Business Manager or Contracting Officer:
Name: Ms. Melody Thompson
Title: Contracts Administrator
Address: Montgomery Watson Harza, 9401 Williamsburg Plaza, Louisville, KY 40222
Telephone: 502-315-6834

Client's Construction or Technical Manager:
Name: Mr. Bill Murray
Title: Bioremediation Treatment Manager
Address: Montgomery Watson Harza, 29407 S. Route 53, Wilmington, IL 60481
Telephone: 815-423-6841