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Hill AFB making progress on cleanup

Map from Hill Air Force Base shows contaminated areas  in Davis and Weber counties and on the base itself.
Map from Hill Air Force Base shows contaminated areas in Davis and Weber counties and on the base itself.
Provided by Hill Air Force Base

SUNSET — As Hill Air Force Base races to meet a pollution cleanup goal set by the U.S. Air Force, it has some good news for the communities surrounding the base and affected by the pollution.

It's making progress.

During fiscal 2009, which ends in September, the base will have spent $21 million on cleanup efforts and is poised to do the same for the coming fiscal year.

This year's money was spent on installing pumps that suck pollution out of the ground in Roy; creating feasibility studies for contaminated plumes in Clearfield, Sunset and on base; treating groundwater in South Weber; and installing a permeable barrier just east of Sunset.

It's been a busy year, says Mark Loucks, the base's restoration branch manager.

By September 2012, the Air Force wants to have all measures in place for cleaning up pollution from its installations.

The cleanups won't be complete, but they'll be working. And currently, the Air Force as a whole is spending $400 million a year working toward that goal.

Hill was named as a Superfund site in 1987, and restoration work has been going on since 1990. The work is expected to last at least 65 more years. That's what you get from a 40-year period without stringent environmental laws when hazardous chemicals were simply dumped on the ground.

Many of the chemicals have found their way into shallow and deep groundwater plumes stretching from the base into the surrounding communities of South Weber, Riverdale, Roy, Sunset, Clinton, Clearfield and Layton.

Thursday night, Hill's restoration advisory board, a committee made up of local residents, elected leaders and health and environmental regulators, heard that four more wells have been installed in a contaminated area of the base near Roy.

About 90 percent of surface asbestos has been removed from the area as well, said Mark Roginske, project manager over that area's restoration.

Kyle Gorder, the project manager over the cleanup of a plume in South Weber, reported that treatment of contamination will now be less expensive because certain equipment is no longer needed.

Until recently, devices known as a phase separator and steam stripper, followed by an air stripper, were used to treat groundwater.

Now, because certain chemicals are no longer being found, only the air stripper will be needed, and treatment costs have dropped from $1 million a year to $200,000 a year, Gorder said.

Though there's still a lot of work to do, Loucks said, he'd like to work himself out of a job.

But with at least 65 years of work left, there's still a couple of generations of job security for restoration managers on base.


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