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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

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Contamination source clean up underway

By Jennifer Parks, Public Affairs Specialist | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | July 8, 2020


Located adjacent to the bachelor enlisted quarters at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany is a site where an electrical polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, transformer once stood. It was decommissioned in 1988 as part of a base-wide inspection conducted to identify all PCB transformers and remove those that were leaking.

During an inspection in 1990 as part of the PCB transformer change-out program, transformer oil was found to have leaked onto the supporting concrete pad at the site, a sampling and analysis plan from MSE Group indicated.

Contractors were brought in several weeks ago to clean up the site. It was one of 26 potential sources of contamination, or PSCs, onboard MCLB Albany monitored quarterly, Brian Wallace, head, Environmental Branch, Installation & Environment Division, MCLB Albany, said.

“This is the first site that is going to be fully remediated,” Wallace said. “We are addressing the issue and cleaning it up.”

Wallace said the job called for contractors to dig down 14 feet, and 30 feet on both sides, in order to do the job. Completing work on the site makes it viable for future development.

“It is overseen by the Department of the Navy Installation Restoration Program,” Wallace said.

The Navy serves as the lead agency with oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Environmental Protection Division for PSC site cleanup in the Navy Installation Restoration Program. It is being done under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act as modified by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act.

The PSC site was fenced and covered with an asphalt cap about 200 feet away from the barracks. Soil sampling and analysis performed prior to a remedial investigation/feasibility study found PCBs and semi-volatile organic compounds beneath the transformer pad, stated MSE Group’s plan, citing a Naval Facilities Engineering Command report from 1997.

Wallace explained that during the 1950s and 1960s, in MCLB Albany’s early days, there were no environmental regulations in place. Solvents, paints, among other materials, were dumped on landfills which were located on various locations within the installation.

“In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the laws changed,” Wallace said. “In ’78, we closed the last landfill on base.”

Officials from the GEPD and EPA were soon identifying PSCs on military installations. They came to MCLB Albany in 1988.

Wallace has been directly involved with the clean-up effort for the last two years. As circumstances changed within the Department of the Navy in terms of funding priorities, monetary resources became available to work on the site.

“We have had annual face-to-face meetings with the Navy, EPA, state officials and contractors,” he said, “but we are in contact throughout the year.” 

“The Navy is getting aggressive about cleaning up and treating these sites,” Wallace continued.

Contaminated soils were removed during a series of shallow excavations performed in 1990. Soil samples from the final excavation indicated PCB concentrations below laboratory detection limits.

Removal activities were terminated due to the potential for damage to the foundation of a building adjacent to the site, which has since been demolished, preventing further access to the residual PCB contaminated soil. In all, soils from an area measuring 12-feet by 16-feet were removed from beneath the transformer pad, disposed of off-base and replaced with clean soil, the MSE Group plan said while citing a 1992 report from ABB Environmental Services.   

The EPA collected samples from the PSC for a proposed remedial plan. The actions as part of that plan included a 14.6-foot by 21-foot multilayer cap, fencing, land-use restrictions on future activities within the source area, excavation and off-base disposal of sediment in the catch basin adjacent to the PSC, installation of monitoring wells and monitoring of groundwater quality.

During the 2016 Five-Year Review, EPA identified residual PCB contamination outside the existing cap footprint may have been exposed as a result of the adjacent building’s demolition in 2008.

“EPA also expressed concern that the cap had deteriorated to the point where normal maintenance would not be sufficient to meet the Land Use Control requirements. In response, the Navy decided to evaluate whether removing the existing cap and residual soils at (the) PSC would be feasible, thereby eliminating the requirements for LUCs at (the) PSC,” the MSE Group report said.

Based on results of sampling activities in December 2017, the Navy recommended the removal of residual soil contamination, followed by subsequent removal of LUCs. 

Wallace said the site will be one less PSC the base has to monitor. The September 2018 report from the Navy said removal of the PCB contaminated soil will eliminate the potential contact or disturbance of contaminated soil that could present an unacceptable risk to human health.

“This shows the Navy makes a commitment to clean up sites,” he said. “It looks good to the public to see the Marine Corps is cleaning up contamination and making sure it doesn’t spread.”

The Navy’s 2018 ESD report estimated the cost for the soil removal and offsite disposal, plus site restoration, to be $357,000. The FYR process for the site will be discontinued after the 2021 review.

The remaining 25 sites will be continually monitored. Groundwater sampling is conducted twice annually, while measures are taken to stop water from migrating and taking with it the contaminants from those sites.

On some sites, there are soil clay caps with trees growing on top of them, Wallace said.

“Depending on the contaminant that is on the site, (that is a factor) on what future action is taken on it,” he said.

While part of an overall Navy effort, this project ties into MCLB Albany’s efforts to become more environmentally friendly. It makes the base a better community neighbor to the southwest Georgia region.

 “There will be no land use restrictions on it (the site),” Wallace added. “If we want to develop that area, we would be allowed to do that.”