Camp Pendleton cleanup and site restoration on national priorities list

by Lee H. Saunders

$5 million project to clean up environmental contamination at a former scrap yard at Camp Pendleton and restore the site to a wetland is nearing completion. A clean up team composed of Southwest Division Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, federal and state regulators, and civilian contracted personnel is progressing toward a scheduled 1996 completion date.

OHM Remediation Services of San Diego, the remedial action contractor performing the clean up, started cleanup operations in May 1996. Utilizing a clean up technology called soil stabilization, the cleanup team is treating 30,000 tons of contaminated soil. The contaminants are pesticides, heavy metals, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons).

"Soil stabilization binds contaminants to soil particles and eliminates their mobility and potential impact to groundwater," said Jerry Dunaway, Southwest Division remedial project manager for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, said.

The cleanup will protect the Santa Margarita groundwater basin tributary that provides the primary source of water for the base.

"The contaminated soil would pose a risk to human health if the contamination had gotten into the water production wells downstream of the site which serve as a water supply for the base," Dunaway said.

Camp Pendleton is listed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is a list of the country's most serious hazardous sites identified for possible remedial response.

"Former operations at the scrap yard involved on-site storage, processing, and disposal of hazardous materials including battery electrolyte fluid, transformer dielectric fluid, and other hazardous waste releases resulting from a drum storage operation," Dunaway said.

Besides treating the contaminated soil, the soil stabilization technology is saving taxpayers' money by eliminating costly off-base disposal of the treated soil. The treated soil will be used in the foundation layer of an engineering cap that will encase a landfill site on the base and save taxpayers about $4 million dollars.

Once the remediation is complete, restoration activities will work to restore the scrap yard site to a wetland status. Though reestablishment of wetlands has proved difficult, it is hoped that grading and drainage improvements throughout the site will aid and enhance its wetland characteristics. The restoration will seek to nurture the growth of native plant species that support endangered birds found in the area.

"Restricting activities at the site will allow it to revert back to its natural ecology," Dunaway said.

Southwest Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, San Diego, commanded by Capt. Mike Johnson, Civil Engineer Corps, U. S. Navy, manages a fiscal year 1996 environmental cleanup budget of over $200 million for over 600 installation sites at 38 Navy and Marine Corps bases in Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern California.