Spokesman talks about future of Naval Weapons Station

Naval Weapons Station Public Affairs Officer Gregg Smith, second from left, and Disctrict One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton discuss issues related to the Navy base at Deaton’s recent coffee chat with her constituents. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

The possible impact of increased sailor visits to Old Town was among the topics area residents raised during last week’s coffee chat with Gregg Smith, the spokesman for Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton. The event was held in Javatinis Espresso & Gelato on Main Street.

Environmental issues were also part of the discussion.

Ammo pier impact

The Navy is planning to replace the base’s ammunition pier with a larger pier. A larger pier will be able to serve larger ships. Actual construction is years away.

One man said the community was looking at potentially “huge” numbers of sailors coming to town.

Councilwoman Deaton, who has begun her last year in office, said the Navy may need to provide funding to help Seal Beach Police. She pointed out that the bars will be the first attraction. Deaton said that “we have some time to work out these issues.

Smith said sailors love Seal Beach. “This is probably one of the favorite liberty posts,” Smith said.

He said ship crews are told that if anything happens in town, the base will shut the “liberty gate.”

He said there is much less tolerance for sailor misbehavior than there used to be. He said if you have problems with a sailor, call him at 562-626-7215.

Resident Marcella McSorely asked how Seal Beach could honor and welcome sailors. Deaton said welcoming them could reduce problems.

Environmental issues

There are currently six environmental cleanup sites on the base. Comparing the base to an industrial site, Smith said “installation restoration” had been on-going since the early 1990s. He said most cleanup projects would take about five years. Smith said the longest cleanup project would probably been the decontamination of the groundwater plume caused by work on the Apollo moon rocket.

Smith said the cleanup of the groundwater “plume” would probably take 10 or 15 years.

Smith said the Navy was introducing bacteria into the groundwater to remove the pollutants. One byproduct of the decontamination is methane. Because there a lot of explosives on the base, Smith said the Navy monitors the methane levels. According to Smith, no drinking water was effected by the long-ago rocket project.

According to Smith, the groundwater in question was too saline for consumption.

Asked if he could tell the public if there was radioactive waste on the base, Smith said yes he could.

“We do not have radioactive contamination on the base,” Smith said.