The site was a load, assemble, and pack facility which produced bombs, boosters, and shells. The site included four bomb load lines, the first of which began operation in October 1942, a bomb booster assembly plant, an ammonium nitrate plant, two explosives burning areas, a proving range, a landfill, a wastewater treatment plant, analytical laboratories, and storage and administration facilities. Most of the raw materials used to manufacture the weapons were produced at other locations and shipped to the facility for assembly. The production facilities were active during both World War II and the Korean Conflict.
The Nebraska Defense Corporation operated the site for the Army from 1942 until 1945 and produced munitions which were loaded with trinitrotoluene (TNT), amatol (TNT and ammonium nitrate), tritonal (TNT and aluminum), and Composition B (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine [RDX] and TNT). Tetryl boosters were assembled for bombs in the Bomb Booster Assembly Area. In 1945, ordnance production operations were terminated, and the facilities were placed on inactive status.
In 1950, the plant was temporarily reactivated and produced an assortment of weapons for use in the Korean Conflict. The site was placed on standby status in 1956 and declared excess to Army needs in 1959. In 1959, the site was transferred to the General Services Administration for disposition. Approximately 1,000 acres were retained by the Army for National Guard and Army Reserve training, 12 acres were retained by the Army for use as a Nike Missile Maintenance Area, 2,000 acres were transferred to the United States Air Force to build the Offutt Air Force Base Atlas Missile site, and 40 acres were transferred to the Department of Commerce.
From 1959 to 1960, the Offutt Air Force Base Atlas Missile Area (AMA) site S-1 launch area was built on 1,185 acres north of Load Line 4. The Air Force also occupied 34 acres of the northern portion of Load Line 1 for use as the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division Technical Area. Both missile facilities were decommissioned in 1964, and the AMA and Nike Area were transferred to the Nebraska National Guard.
In 1962, approximately 9,600 acres of the site were purchased by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln for use as an agricultural research farm which is now the Agricultural Research and Development Center, and an additional 600 acres were obtained in 1964. The remaining 5,250 acres were eventually purchased by private individuals and corporations. Currently, most of the site is owned by University of Nebraska - Lincoln, which operates the Agricultural Research and Development Center. Crop, swine, dairy, and cattle research take place on site. Other portions are owned by the Nebraska National Guard and Army Reserves. Private ownership accounts for the remaining portions of the site. Adjacent land use is primarily agricultural, except for the Village of Mead which is located north of the site.
Several environmental investigations resulted in the listing of the former Nebraska Ordnance Plant site on the National Priorities List (NPL) under Section 105 of Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) on August 30, 1990. In September 1991, the Kansas City District Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality entered into an Interagency Agreement under Section 120 of CERCLA to investigate and control environmental contamination at the former Nebraska Ordnance Plant site.
Because the former Nebraska Ordnance Plant is a large site with different types of contamination in various media and in different locations, cleanup activities were organized into operable units (OUs) as follows:
• OU1 encompasses the upper four feet of soil contaminated with explosive compounds.
• OU2 includes contaminated groundwater, soil contaminated with volatile organic compounds, and soil contaminated with explosive compounds that was not remediated during OU1 and which could contaminate the groundwater with explosive compounds.
• OU3 includes a former on-site landfill and areas of waste not previously identified.