Beale expands environmental cleanup ability

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Robert Biermann
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
Beale Air Force Base environmental members, in conjunction with environmental consultants, recently completed a project that greatly expands the base's ability to perform critical environmental cleanup operations.

The project uses a revolutionary process that naturally cleans contaminated groundwater in a fraction of the time and cost required for the traditional methods, said 9th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight officials.

The process places the Beale AFB restoration program at the Air Force's leading edge, said Wayne Dandridge of the 9th CES Environmental Flight.

"This new process is innovative technology," Mr. Dandridge said. "This process is much cheaper than the traditional method that would cost millions of dollars."

Essentially, the project's purpose is to remove contamination from Beale AFB's soil and groundwater so the water can eventually become clean enough to drink, Mr. Dandridge said.

In September, the project at Environmental Restoration Program Site 31 became Beale AFB's second natural ground water treatment facility. Site 31 allows base members to reduce the number of steps required in natural water cleanup while saving time and money. Beale AFB officials partnered with members from regulatory agencies to accelerate the cleanup processes.

"Conventional treatment systems are expensive and may take a long time -- 30 to 50 years -- to completely treat an area," said Chris Goodrich, the CH2M HILL Remedial Treatment Systems construction manager. "However, at Site 31 we expect the water to be treated naturally in a period of five to six years."

Beale AFB's first natural ground water treatment facility, Site 10, paved the way for the construction of this new site. Site 10 also allowed technicians to get a feel for how natural ground water treatment facilities work. The two are located in different areas of the base where ground water is contaminated.

"Site 10 has successfully treated more than 90 percent of the solvents in the ground water within its treatment zone," said Rob Nordahl, a 9th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight technician. "The success of Site 10 has resulted in an expedited permitting process for Site 31. The lessons learned from Site 10 have also been incorporated into Site 31 by way of several upgrades. These upgrades will treat more contamination at greater depths for less money."

The systems at Site 10 and 31 use two fundamental processes to treat contaminated groundwater. The processes are biostimulation and bioaugmentation. Biostimulation is the addition of food for microorganisms, specifically sodium lactate -- a syrup-like substance often used in the production of certain foods. Bioaugmentation is the addition of bacteria to degrade a specific contaminant. Both of these processes occur underground.

"The natural ground water treatment processes are much more efficient than having to pump and extract the groundwater and treat it outside of its natural setting," Mr. Nordahl said.

"Instead of creating a treatment plant, the treatment is done in place and done naturally," Mr. Goodrich said. "Hence, natural ground water treatment facility."

Site 31's primary purpose will be to use the natural processes to remove the contaminated solvent present in the groundwater. The result is groundwater free of the solvent.

"This water is not used for drinking water, but once it has been treated it could be used as drinking water some day. That's the goal," Mr. Goodrich said.