Navy Official: Air Base Cleanup Could Take 10 Years
Remediation at a handful of the 12 sites within the parcel is ongoing, most has concluded.
Half a decade before the military’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission vowed in 2005 to close Willow Grove air base, the massive 1,100-acre site was beginning onsite remediation.
Eleven years after the cleanup process got underway, roughly 30 acres still have active water and soil samplings, with ongoing remediation, according to Robert Lewandowski, Navy Base Realignment and Closure environmental coordinator.
During the 45th quarterly meeting of NASJRB Willow Grove Restoration Advisory Board on Wednesday night, Lewandowski estimated that some aspects of the site remediation would continue for the next 10 years.
“It doesn’t really restrict development out there … putting a building up,” Lewandowski said in addressing a question from the lone community member, a Hatboro resident.
The ongoing cleanup would, however, prevent prospective owners from having potable water, at least for the time being, he said.
Russell Turner, Tetra Tech senior project manager, said the first round of groundwater sampling was conducted at the Privet Road compound post in September 2009. The results, he said, showed chemical concentration levels to be “below safe drinking water act levels.”
The next round of sampling is scheduled for September, he said. Testing would be done every two years until the property transfers from the military to another owner, Turner said.
At the most recent remediation site identified, a former landfill adjacent Maple Avenue, Turner said a work plan has been completed and the first phase of an investigation has been carried out.
“It’s a full-blown landfill,” Turner said of the site that he estimated had not been used for that purpose since the 1960s. “The Navy would historically dig a trench, put things in, burn it, cover it and move on.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the plan now and is expected to render a decision within a month, Turner said, adding that the second phase could get underway by mid-summer. That phase involves taking additional test borings and compiling a feasibility study by winter or spring, he said.
At another site, in the southwest corner of the base adjacent to Horsham Road, Tetra Tech Senior Geologist Kevin Kilmartin said groundwater is being remediated for chlorinated solvents and volatile organic compounds. Kilmartin said chemicals used for firefighting training exercises had been stored there. So far, the remediation efforts have shown positive results, he said.
“The original solvent compounds that were spilled at the site, their concentrations in the groundwater have been sharply reduced,” Kilmartin said. “The compounds that really signal the end stage of the process … are starting to appear. The biological process is going all the way through to completion.”
Bioremediation has been incorporated into the plan, which is under EPA review now, he said. A decision on that plan is expected by Sept. 30.
The next NASJRB Willow Grove Restoration Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17.