EPA announces clean up plan for air force base

In 1995 the McClellan Air Force Base in Anniston, Alabama was shut down by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and labeled a hazardous site due to chemical waste which had leached into the ground, contaminating the soil and water supply.

The primary mission of McClellan Base was the management, maintenance, and repair of aircraft, electronics and communication equipment, but it also served as the Army's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Corps. The varied operations involved the use, storage and disposal of a range of hazardous materials, such as industrial solvents and low-level radioactive wastes.

Since 1984 smaller parts of the Base have seen clean up efforts, including an Air Force mission which removed contaminated soil, constructed a treatment plant for extracted groundwater and provided an alternative water supply for local residences.

Privatized clean up approaches have also been in use since 2007, during which the Air Force deeded property and cleanup responsibility at the 3,000 acre base to the McClellan Business Park, under supervision by the EPA. Funding for clean up is still provided by the Air Force.

This week the EPA announced a new large-scale clean up plan for contaminated soils across 130 acres in 43 separate areas at the former base. This procedure will excavate and remove 60,988 cubic yards of soils contaminated with solvents, metals and other hazardous wastes. Land use will be restricted to protect people and the environment from any remaining pollution.

The primary contaminants in this case are volatile organic compounds in the groundwater, PCBs and heavy metals in the soil and radionuclides in surface layers and former disposal pits.

Working with environmental consultants, government agencies can quickly determine the most rapid and cost-effective ways of returning their land to usable condition.