Nation's First Completed Privatized Cleanup

  • Published
  • By Linda Geissinger
  • AFRPA / PA
On Sept. 30, officials gathered to celebrate the nation's first successful privatized environmental cleanup at a DOD Superfund site. Doris Matsui, Congressional Representative for California's 5th District and Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, Timothy K. Bridges spoke at the event held at the former McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, Calif.

"This cleanup is the first of its kind on a closed military base that's a Superfund site. And it will not be the last. Here at McClellan, the Air Force has already transferred 560 more acres, and we are in final negotiations to transfer 515 more -- using the exact same approach," said Bridges.

More than 100 community guests attended the event along with speakers including Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 Superfund Director Jane Diamond, and representatives from state, county, and local environmental agencies.

"I am extremely pleased by the successful cleanup and restoration of Sacramento's McClellan Park - proof of what innovative thinking and federal funding can accomplish," said Congresswoman Matsui. "The work of all of you has provided Sacramento an opportunity to build new and sustain existing businesses, while creating much needed jobs."
A former military storage yard provided the setting for the event, where decades ago transformers leaked polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the soil. After McClellan closed, Sacramento County and McClellan Business Park acquired the property and forged an agreement with the Air Force to privatize the cleanup. Dignitaries lauded the cleanup, as much for protecting the environment as for creating the framework for future privatized cleanups. The project now serves as a template for future land conveyances at McClellan Park and possibly at Superfund sites across the United States, according to Diamond.

"The Air Force recognizes the completion of this project as an extremely significant event in the cleanup and redevelopment of the former McClellan Air Force Base," said Phil Mook, Senior Representative, Air Force Real Property Agency. "This project delivered all of the stakeholders' requirements: protection of human health and the environment, property transfer, accelerated schedules, redevelopment, and great value. We're off and running on completing the remaining McClellan property transfers and cleanups using this project's template."

The transfer process, known as early transfer with privatized remediation, couples transfer of property title with an agreement by the Air Force to fully fund the cleanup. The entire project cost $11.2 million; and with the cleanup done, the developer already has plans for building on the parcel.

"This demonstrates that cleanup can be integrated with redevelopment at Superfund sites without compromising environmental protection," said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "This project is remarkable because it was the first attempted and successfully completed environmental cleanup by a private party at a former military facility. In this era of cash-strapped government agencies, McClellan Business Park is to be commended for stepping in and making the cleanup and redevelopment of this community resource a reality."

Green Cleanup Partnership Signed

During the event, another cleanup-related initiative was highlighted. The Air Force and EPA signed an agreement to share data and strategies on conducting the greenest cleanups possible. Bridges pledged that while the Air Force continues cleanup of their sites they will work with EPA to figure out how to conduct these cleanups with the smallest footprint possible. Whether this means using renewables like solar to pump water for treatment, or recycling and conserving clean water, Bridges said the Air Force and EPA are looking at every feasible way to reduce the environmental footprint of cleanups.

McClellan Air Force Base operated as a military facility from 1936 to 2001, during which it was utilized for a variety of activities, including aircraft repair and maintenance. As a result of environmental investigations in the early 1980s, the entire base was added to the EPA's National Priorities List of "Superfund" sites in 1987. Superfund sites are locations where past uses have left conditions which potentially pose risks to human health and the environment. More investigations and testing of the property followed, as the Air Force and regulatory agencies decided how best to address the contamination at sites throughout McClellan.

The cleanup at the former storage yard involved excavating the contaminated dirt and treating it with low-temperature thermal desorption to destroy the PCBs. Nearly 26,000 cubic yards of soil--enough to fill a football field 15 feet deep--were removed, treated on-site and returned to the area as backfill.

"Today's milestone shows that government and private industry can work together to drive economic growth," said Calif. environmental regulator Debbie Raphael. "We at Department of Toxic Substance Control Board are proud to have played a key role in restoring this land so that businesses can grow and flourish, and where the community can reap the benefits of a vibrant economy."

The Air Force Real Property Agency is responsible for remediation and property transfer at 40 closed Air Force installations throughout the United States. AFRPA buys, sells and manages all Air Force-controlled property worldwide.