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Urunao restoration project finishes first phase, begins second

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
During the World War II era, there were two off-base sites at Urunao used for over-the-cliff disposal of miscellaneous military equipment, creating an unburied time capsule of history and heritage. What it also created was an environmental nightmare for the private landowners who possessed the 29 acres of property affected by these transgressions.

The 36th Civil Engineer Squadron's environmental flight and Shaw Environmental, Inc. have been working feverishly since the first phase began in September 2006 to reinvigorate the scenic beauty of Guam. They have reached the hump, as Site 1 is 100-percent complete and work has begun to clear Site 2.

In the midst of the steep slopes and rocky terrain, the crew has found an array of items, including unexploded ordnances, aircraft parts, 55-gallon drums and household and construction debris. The crew uses a skyline yarder, a piece of equipment typically used by logging industries in the Pacific Northwest, to lift the items from the bottom of the cliff to the top.

According to Gregg Ikehara, 36th CES environmental flight restoration chief, more than 55,000 unexploded ordnances were removed from Site 1 during the restoration project. Explosive ordnance disposal technicians from Shaw assumed responsibility for this portion of the project due to the daunting mission requirements of Andersen's own EOD flight. He said he does not anticipate finding as many UXOs at Site 2. 

The wing has spent more than $20 million on the restoration project alone. 

More than 30 personnel work 10-hour days Monday through Friday to facilitate the restoration project, said Rick Prohaska, site manager for the Urunao project. These people range in a variety of skill sets, including laborers, equipment operators, EOD technicians, quality control specialists, and health and safety specialists. Despite working with the dangers of UXOs and the terrain, the crew has completed the first phase of the project with zero safety mishaps. 

By dismantling the mistakes made in the past, The 36th CES environmental flight and Shaw Environmental, Inc. foster a positive relationship with the local community in the present and future. 

"Stewardship is obviously a key objective for this base, specifically environmental stewardship," Mr. Ikehara said. "They don't want to be seen as the bad guys on the block by throwing stuff over the cliff or adversely affecting the environment in any way, shape or form, whether it is past sins or current activities that are impacting this island. We are going through a lot of expense to take care of these problems because it's the right thing to do." 

The restoration of Site 2 is slated for completion by Spring 2009.