Fort Carson, also known as the Mountain Post, comprises 377,000 scenic acres in southeastern Colorado at two locations. The main post is near Colorado Springs -- adjacent to the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountain Front Range and the Pike National Forest. Some troops train at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, approximately 150 miles to the southeast. Fort Carson is also responsible for the former Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) near Denver.
Some activities and practices over the years caused contaminants to enter the soil and groundwater at Fort Carson sites. However, aggressive remediation has been successful enough to allow the Army's mission to continue uninterrupted.
Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division implements the Installation Restoration Program (IRP) and is committed to cleaning up and restoring these locations. IRP staff works with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to manage 22 active solid waste management units that include previous landfills, degreasing facilities, artillery ranges, waste lagoons, and areas of unknown influence.
Appropriate cleanup and restoration can be challenging due to the diverse types of constituents and media. For example, Fort Carson is treating two groundwater plumes for a combination of chlorinated solvents and 1,4-dioxane. When cleanup methods proved insufficient and Colorado lowered the groundwater standard for 1,4-dioxane, IRP staff found a system that would both remove volatile organic compounds and destroy 1,4-dioxane.
"Fort Carson is committed to eliminating any imminent threat to public health or the environment by implementing an innovative technology, which also enhances mission readiness by returning land to training activities," said Col. Ronald P. Fitch Jr., garrison commander, Fort Carson.
IRP and Army staff figured out a lower technology solution to an issue in 2015 when contaminants (e.g., oil, petroleum, lubricants) were detected in soil at a motor pool. Rather than cleaning such sites to what is deemed a "residential standard," since they knew the motor pool would continue to be used for that purpose, they agreed to leave the soil in place, allowing operations to resume and saving $930,000. The IRP also implemented land use controls as an alternative to CDPHE's request for an environmental covenant--a solution that could save the Army millions of restoration dollars in some cases.
The former RMA near Denver -- originally having 31 sites designated for cleanup -- constructed five groundwater treatment plants to run 24/7. However, treatment could be terminated at one plant where groundwater met Colorado drinking water standards, saving more than $86,000 annually. The arsenal has also saved approximately $175,000 by implementing green technologies such as LED lighting and modified facility operations/maintenance plans.
Fort Carson has demonstrated that groundwater remediation and airfield construction are not mutually exclusive. For example, Butt's Army Airfield upgraded facilities and infrastructure in recent years. The proposed design of a hangar overlays some performance monitoring wells, but Fort Carson IRP staff presented an alternative to CDPHE that includes directional drilling, helping ensure that both the airfield and the cleanup program will be successful in their respective missions.
Fort Carson IRP staff also worked with CDPHE to reconsider the border fencing at Fort Carson's largest landfill area. It includes five solid waste management units surrounded by a protective fencing that originally encompassed 300 acres. By encroaching on capped landfills and realigning the fence, IRP reduced the fenced footprint to 100 acres, freeing up 200 acres for military training. Healthy vegetation grew rapidly at the capped landfills, which reduced required inspections -- saving time and funds.
The Fort Carson Restoration Advisory Board allows the Army to keep the community up-to-date about cleanup status and remediation goals, and to address questions or concerns.
The IRP team's efforts reflect creative, effective solutions to remediate environmental contamination that return Fort Carson lands to the Army more quickly, helping the Army enhance mission capability.