Air Force begins environmental cleanup of Guam dumpsite

  • Published
  • By Marti D. Ribeiro
  • Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence
The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence at Brooks City-Base, Texas, is managing the project to clean up a 62-year-old dumpsite near Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

AFCEE contractor Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure, Inc., has begun the two-year-long job of removing waste from the Urunao Dumpsite, an area used during World War II to hold the debris from construction of Northwest Field and North Field, now Andersen AFB.

This site is composed of several large cliffs, and the construction and aircraft debris were essentially pushed over the edge of the cliff. Eventually, the debris was covered with fill material and burned with napalm, said Capt. Elisa Hammer, an AFCEE environmental project manager.

"The primary challenge of this project is removing the decades of accumulated waste from over the side of the cliff," said Nestor Acedera, the Shaw project manager overseeing the Urunao Dumpsite. 

The contractor plans to use specialized winching equipment, normally used by logging companies in the mountains, to reach down and remove the debris.

The majority of the cleanup is composed of solid waste removal. The waste consists of housing/construction debris like scrap metal and rusted containers, heavy machinery to include tires, aircraft parts and vehicle parts as well as inactive explosive ordnance materials like M-89 and M-90 target identification bombs.

Andersen AFB officials have enacted an aggressive cleanup program to continue its environmental stewardship, the captain said. Abiding by strict environmental guidelines, the Air Force has leased the private property to gain access and remediate the past remnants of the historical over-the-cliff dumpsite.

The Air Force originally considered an explosive detonation to remove the waste, but this was decided against due to the potential impact to surrounding limestone, native species and archeological sites found near the dump.

"The Air Force is a steward of the environment and takes the responsibility of adhering to local and federal statues," Captain Hammer said.

The cumbersome process of removing the debris over the cliff has begun and is scheduled to be finished in 2009.

Since the dumpsite is located on private property, the project has become a point of interest for the local community.

Public involvement in the cleanup decisions is accomplished through the local Restoration Advisory Board. The board is comprised of community members, elected officials, Air Force officials and representatives from environmental regulatory agencies. They meet on a regular basis to discuss program progress and advise the community on the status.

Keeping the public informed is crucial, the captain said.

"This shows the local community our commitment to their land and their people," she said. 

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