By Rita Hess, USAEC ContractorMarch 30, 2018
Fort Drum in northern New York provides training opportunities for 16,000 active duty personnel along with more than 27,000 National Guard and Reserve Component personnel on more than 74,000 acres of training land and 47 range facilities.
The Department of Defense Installation Restoration Program (IRP) was developed to address contamination from past operations on military bases worldwide. When the IRP began at Fort Drum, 72 areas of concern were identified. Today, work focuses on just nine sites, with others either needing no further action or awaiting closure after cleanup.
Fort Drum's IRP succeeds because of an integrated team approach," said Jim Miller, Public Works Environmental Division Chief. "Successfully cleaning up contaminated sites for productive reuse requires a team like Fort Drum assembled--with expertise in science and engineering, environmental assessment, regulatory requirements, human health and safety, communication and reporting, and operations and maintenance management."
The team credits its success with well-defined goals and objectives. Specifically, members hope to achieve "no further remedial action required" status at all Fort Drum sites by 2020. One of the IRP team's greatest accomplishments to date is the cleanup of approximately 500,000 gallons of jet fuel from groundwater at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield discovered in 2006. Today, groundwater contaminant concentrations are approaching standard levels; cleanup is on track to conclude five years early and $11.5 million under the initial projected cost.
Some areas of focus now simply were not addressed adequately in the past. For example, underground storage tanks and piping underwent varying levels of remediation since the early 1990s. Previous remedial systems were not operational or were ineffective. The IRP team designed, implemented, and optimized all systems and now expects to complete all actions by 2020. At Area 3805 alone, more than 70 new wells were installed. More than 25,000 pounds of fuel mass was recovered in six months, exceeding the total removed from there during the previous five years.
Also on the installation is a PCE-contaminated soil and groundwater plume associated with former vehicle maintenance activities and referred to as the 3800 PCE site. The team implemented in-situ chemical oxidation using permanganate, a technique that injects strong chemical oxidizers into the contaminated groundwater or soil to destroy chemical contaminants. Post-injection sampling following 2017 remedial efforts showed significant improvement.
The Fort Drum IRP team uses only performance-based acquisition contracts to investigate and remediate sites. This accelerates cleanup timelines and saves money, but it also drives innovative and alternative remediation strategies.
In 2015, for example, the team tested a new green and sustainable remediation technology called thermal in-situ sustainable remediation, which uses solar energy to enhance remediation of soil and groundwater. Among its many advantages, this method results in decreased lifecycle operational costs compared with traditional groundwater extraction and can result in reduced carbon dioxide emissions--thus, a smaller carbon footprint.
The team is also experimenting with other green technologies. Waste heat from remediation system blowers is being used to enhance remediation at Area 3805 with measurable success.
Phytoremediation uses vegetation to soak up and metabolize contaminants from soil, sediment, groundwater, and surface water. Fort Drum's IRP team uses it at one of its landfills, where willow plantings in a raised bed are located in wetland areas. Water samples demonstrate significant reductions in petroleum-related organic constituents, while biomass samples show contaminant uptake by the trees.
Elsewhere at Fort Drum, phytoremediation studies are underway that may one day be used to clean-up contaminants live-fire activities. During summer, 2,700 switchgrass seedlings are sampled to evaluate their ability to absorb and break down contaminants.
One of the Fort Drum IRP team's most impressive statistics is that the installation's sites have been accident-free for 53,000 field hours, despite obvious hazards. Overall, the Fort Drum IRP team works together, leading to successful and safe remediation efforts, some well ahead of schedule and at a significant cost savings to the Army.