Officials moving forward with cleanup at Tyndall

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Air Force officials announced plans to continue with environmental cleanup efforts in place at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

Terry Yonkers, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, directed that the work move forward expeditiously and within the framework established by the Defense Environment Restoration Program because, "we take our responsibility for the stewardship of environmental protection on our installations seriously."

Tyndall AFB has had a robust environmental cleanup program that, through research and analysis, has allowed Air Force officials to clean contaminated sites for the protection of the community and restore the land for Tyndall AFB's use. Sites range from old landfills, underground tanks, aircraft crash sites, to old chemical storage areas.

"We know that we have an incredibly important national resource at Tyndall (AFB)," Mr. Yonkers said. "It's important we care for the environment in and around our installations, even improving it where we can. Cleaning and maintaining our bases is a top Air Force priority."

To date, an estimated $42.7 million has been spent to clean up Tyndall AFB's contaminated sites. Air Force officials have identified a total of 80 sites that are in various stages of investigation and remediation. Of these sites, 25 have been restored and received "no further action" determination from the Environmental Protection Agency and/or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

"The Air Force is proceeding with the cleanup to meet our environmental and public health responsibilities," Mr. Yonkers said. "The Air Force has an obligation to remove the known contamination which may present an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment."

Tyndall AFB is on an aggressive schedule to have remedies in place at 30 sites by 2014, which meets the Department of Defense Installation Restoration Program goal for cleanup. For the 11 Military Munitions Response Program sites, planners are developing a plan to expedite and clean up well ahead of DOD's proposed goal for having remedies in place by 2020.

Once all cleanup actions are in place, environmental monitoring and land use restrictions where contamination could not be entirely removed will continue to ensure long-lasting protection.

Air Force officials intend to use performance-based contracting mechanisms to take advantage of economies of scale to reduce costs, limit the need for long-term monitoring, and leverage the expertise of contractors to make the best recommendations for closing these sites as quickly as possible.

When used appropriately and in the right situation, PBCs are an excellent opportunity to compel contractors to put a greater focus on cleanup and meet Air Force objectives, officials said.

"It's a team effort, from senior leadership to our lowest ranking Airman," Mr. Yonkers said. "Everyone takes their responsibilities for environmental compliance seriously. Controlling and preventing air, land and water pollution directly impacts everyone's quality of life."

The cleanup of Tyndall Elementary School is an example of teamwork involved in protecting human health and the environment, officials said.

The school was constructed in 1953 on a portion of one of the WWII gunnery ranges. When lead shot contamination at the school was identified, Air Force officials removed contaminated soil in the school yard and replaced it with clean fill within 4 months of identifying a risk.

Tyndall AFB officials are working closely with involved agencies and environmental organizations to finish the investigation and cleanup of this site.

Testing and training ranges at Tyndall AFB are an integral part of the base's role as the Air Force's premier training center. In addition to its primary mission of training people to fly and maintain aircraft, Tyndall AFB hosts activities such as pre-deployment and small-arms qualification training for Airmen slated for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

As part of range sustainment initiatives, such as periodic unexploded ordnance removal, Air Force officials initiated an Operational Range Assessment Program in 2007 to proactively search for migration of contamination off active ranges. To date, inspectors have completed evaluations at approximately 120 ranges and range complexes and have not found any contamination migrating off range. The evaluation of Tyndall AFB's ranges is scheduled to take place in September 2010.

In addition to the Air Force commitment to clean up Tyndall AFB, officials have conducted a range of community involvement activities to solicit community input and to ensure the public remains informed about site activities throughout the site cleanup process. Outreach activities have included public notices and information meetings on cleanup progress and other activities.

The Air Force has and will continue to keep appropriate federal, state and local officials apprised of the work as it progresses. Additionally, Air Force officials plan to provide regular updates on the status of the various projects to the public through the media and other public venues.

Officials said the Air Force is fully committed to the protection of human health and the environment, and to full compliance with applicable laws, at all of its facilities, for all programs, including cleanup.