By Rita Hess (USAEC Contractor)March 14, 2017
Established in 1918, the Fort Bragg military reservation (which includes Pope Army Air Field, Simmons Army Air Field, and Camp Mackall) is located 10 miles northwest of Fayetteville, North Carolina. This strategically important military installation relies heavily on its Installation Restoration Program (IRP) to restore land for training.
The IRP has performed so well, in fact, that it earned the fiscal 2016 Secretary of the Army Environmental Award for Environmental Restoration.
"Fort Bragg clearly demonstrates how fully engaged leadership, coupled with sound environmental practices and innovative approaches, can directly enhance Army readiness," said Mr. Eugene Collins, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health.
One of the IRP's top objectives is streamlining environmental restoration, which can return big dividends. For example, Fort Bragg's IRP uses performance-based contracts to investigate and remediate sites. This alone has saved approximately $7.3 million, and sites that were not expected to reach closure for 30 years have instead garnered No Further Action (NFA) status in an average of five years.
Some locations simply needed a second look. The site known as Hardfill #2 consisted of waste left in place, contaminating low-level groundwater and surface water. A 2010 estimate predicated it needed 30 years of monitoring and controls. But a 2015 review by the IRP team discovered volatile and semi-volatile organic compound levels had not exceeded North Carolina standards since 1992.
Consequently, the site received NFA status, resulting in approximately $224,000 cost savings and over 13 acres returned to the installation 25 years ahead of schedule. A second look at anomalies at five Munitions Response Sites revealed they were associated with historical and cultural features and not munitions--thus avoiding costly investigations and saving $2.5 million.
The IRP uses alternative cleanup and/or restoration techniques when possible. Instead of excavation, soil sampling and screening while performing underground storage tank removals saved approximately $1 million in lifecycle costs at four sites in 2015 and 2016. Innovative groundwater sampling procedures, such as passive diffusion bag (PDB) sampling, increased after a Fort Bragg pilot study demonstrated its effectiveness. Now a primary method for groundwater monitoring, it drastically reduces investigation waste and sampling costs--saving approximately 40 percent per sample on each well.
Use of the North Carolina Notice of Residual Petroleum and the Notice of Contaminated Site processes allow placing land use controls on soil and groundwater at sites where excavation is not practical due to adjacent buildings. Lifecycle cost savings over the past two years is estimated at $1.5 million.
Fort Bragg's IRP relies on green/sustainable remediation cleanup techniques if available. One such method to treat chlorinated solvents in groundwater plume source areas is enhanced anaerobic bioremediation, which involves pumping a mixture of water, buffer solution, and "neat" vegetable oil into the ground at the source. This boosts anaerobic microbial activity, which then feeds on contaminants and accelerates the cleanup process. Fort Bragg also uses natural attenuation--allowing nature to clean up a site. These processes may take longer but are less intrusive.
Many remediation sites are in prime regions and are critical for future development. Prioritized site remediation has thus far returned over 1,775 acres of land to the inventory for vital military construction projects. Fostering responsible use of natural and fiscal resources--and sharing best management practices with military representatives from state Army, Air Force, and Marine installations--will bode well for the installation's future.
The Fort Bragg IRP will go on to compete for the Secretary of Defense Environmental Award competition later this year.