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Restoration in moving forward

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Often, conservation is the first idea to be associated with environmental awareness, but here at Andersen Air Force Base, the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight's restoration department is just as hard at work to make sure the environment is well taken care of.

The restoration department's job is to go out and survey Air Force property and look if previous activities in that area caused contamination that could be hazardous to both humans and the environment.

"Our method is we identify the site, then take samples," said Jess Torres, 36 CES environmental flight engineer. "We then do a full suite of tests for chemicals that Environmental Protection Agency has deemed hazardous. Once we do all those tests, if the EPA determines there are elevated levels, we are required to clean it up."

The 36 CES environmental flight is currently working on sites that are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl, also known as PCB; a contamination that is not only of concern at Andersen, but also at the Naval Base and the government of Guam.

"There are many uses for PCBs. Most common use is in electrical transformers because PCB serves as really good insulator," said Mr. Torres. "It's really hard to break down. We have contaminations from at least 50 years ago."

Because it was too costly to ship all the contaminated soil off island, the environmental flight obtained a contract with CAPE Environmental Management Incorporated in order to start a thermal desorption site.

"When we reached 4,500 cubic yards of contaminated material, we determined that it will take more money to ship the soil to be treated off island than to treat it on island," said Mr. Torres.

"In a nut shell the thermal desorption unit burns the soil and vaporizes the PCB," he continued. "The soil comes out completely sterile, and the PCB is condensed into a cake-like substance that we ship off as hazardous waste."

Aside from decontaminating soil on island, the restoration department is also busy with large cleanup projects. They recently completed a $20 million cleanup at Ritidian Point where they removed scrap, debris and unexploded ordnance, and replanted native vegetation in the area. The restoration department is also responsible for cleaning up thousands of gallons of fuel that saturated the flight line after the B-2 Spirit crash in 2008.

Among the three pillars of the environmental flight - conservation, compliance and restoration - restoration is constantly in contact with the local community. The restoration department takes the Government of Guam's opinion on how to go about the cleanup projects and how to return the area to its natural state.

"It's a positive program, it's all moving forward," said Joe Vinch, 36 CES environmental flight chief. "The thing is we just have to make sure we don't make the same mistakes. We don't want to have another 80 cleanup sites. We want to finish the 80 that we currently have on Andersen and continue on the right path."

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