Signing event signifies environmental milestone

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Steve Marciniak
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Air Mobility Command, state and federal officials signed a record of decision May 12 for the last two of the base's contaminant release sites, reaching a major milestone in the environmental program here.

The base's 59 contaminant sites put Dover on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund National Priorities List. The record of decision, or ROD, signifies the approval of planned methods to remediate the sites.

This represents the product of a relationship built between the Air Force and the regulators from the Environmental Protection Agency and Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

"I liken this progress to a partnership," said Brig. Gen. Del Eulberg, director of installations and mission support for AMC at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. "It took (agencies) all working together to re-look at the processes."

As Dover continues to make strides in cleaning up the contamination caused by past practices, regulators say those involved have shown what innovation can do for taking responsibility for the environment.

"What you have done here is the model for every federal facility," said EPA Region III Deputy Regional Administrator William Wisniewski.

"The Dover Restoration Team shaved months off of the completion schedules through the use of better processes, better partnering and better technologies, while at the same time ensuring compliance with all environmental requirements, and maintaining the highest standards," General Eulberg said.

To speed up gaining regulatory approval, base environmental experts worked with AMC, Delaware and EPA officials to see where waste could be eliminated. Previously, each ROD was worked individually. Under the new relationships forged among the agencies, multiple RODs could be worked simultaneously.

"The Dover partnering effort required the team to analyze and streamline processes to work more efficiently in order to compress a two-year time schedule into one year," said William Barry, chief of AMC's environmental programs division at Scott. "This streamlining effort resulted in the completion of six RODs within six months ... a first for the Air Force. It is not unusual for a ROD to take two years or more to complete."

One priority of accelerating the restoration was to return the contaminated land to the Air Force for use.

"We are committed to having remedies in place at all clean-up sites by fiscal year 2012," General Eulberg said. "And Dover is showing that we can meet that objective."

Of the 59 contaminant release sites identified at Dover, 45 were contaminated with hazardous chemicals, primarily chlorinated solvents, which were widely used from the 1950s to the early 70s for parts cleaning.

"Today's event is (similar) to crossing the 50-yard line, and much work remains. However, I'm extremely confident we will achieve our goal together," said Robert Hofelich, the chief of AMC's environmental restoration branch, also at Scott.

Additional support for Dover's efforts came from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which serves as Dover's technical support agent for environmental cleanup, and from URS Group Inc., the primary contractor working the Dover project.

Following the signing, attendees witnessed a demonstration of a new process being used to clean up the chlorinated solvents -- accelerated anaerobic biodegradation. In the process, a mixture of vegetable oil, sodium lactate and water is injected into the ground that serves as a food source for native bacteria, which then metabolize the contaminants into inert compounds. These sites are then monitored, and can be re-injected if necessary to meet cleanup objectives.

"Of the remaining 19 sites requiring groundwater cleanup, we've already implemented remedies at eight of those sites," said Jo Anne Deramo, the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron's restoration manager. "We are right now installing remedies at nine more, and we start work at the remaining two sites -- the two in today's record of decision -- next month. Our goal is to have all remedies in place at all sites by the end of September."