Andersen AFB saves $25 million with contamination cleanup concept

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Robert Hicks
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight are working on containing contamination to protect the environment at Site 14 here.

The site, located in the southeastern corner of the base, was contaminated with harmful substances such as polychlorinated biphenyl and asbestos since the 1970s when it was used as a construction waste site. The cleanup effort is estimated to be completed later this month.

"Before we started the project, our biggest worry was if the contaminated soil had gone over the cliff edge and infected the marine biology below," said Gregg Ikehara, a 36th CES environmental restoration manager. "We did find some small concentrations of PCBs in the fish tissue, but it did not trigger any risk to the occasional fisherman."

Ikehara said the Site 14 area is part of the Pati Point Preserve, which means certain activities, such as fishing, are restricted to protect coral reef habitats and aquatic animals such as fish.

After brainstorming about ideas to do away with the contaminated soil, members of the environmental flight developed a cost-effective plan that would save the Air Force millions of dollars.

All of the affected soil was removed from Site 14 and buried in an engineered cell at an on-island base consolidation unit and sealed to prevent further contamination. Not sending the soil back to the U.S. for processing saved the Air Force approximately $25 million, Ikehara said.

After the affected soil was removed, dirt was sloped around the original area and constructed a trench to divert storm water away from the site, so as not to risk trace amounts of contaminated soil flowing over the edge of the cliff.

During the early 1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency identified the base on the National Priorities List. Since then, Andersen Air Foce Base, Guam, has been mandated by Congress to have a remedy in place for 80 sites by 2014.

The National Priority List identifies known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories.

The sites on Andersen AFB consist of chemical weapons storage areas, landfills, firefighting training areas and other items that can affect the environment through releases or mishaps.

Restoring sites here has been an ongoing process since 1993. Including the restoration to Site 14, there are only eight sites left.

The expected completion date of those remaining sites is 2014.

"Team Andersen is fully dedicated in protecting the environment by promoting conservation and sustainable actions throughout the 36th Wing," said Joe Vinch, the 36th CES Environmental Flight chief. "Environmental stewardship is everyone's responsibility."