By Todd Plain
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District has completed an $18 million groundwater cleanup and environmental restoration project at the former Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Monterey, about 15 years and $4.5 million ahead of schedule.
To celebrate the completion the Corps held its final public meeting for the project March 19 at the Casanova-Oak Knolls Community Center, attended by nearly 25 residents, local officials and U.S. Rep. Sam Farr. The meeting marked the end of active cleanup work for the Corps.
"These kinds of projects can last someone's lifetime," said Farr at the meeting. "I've been here from the start and tonight we're all here to celebrate the finish. I'm glad it could be done while I'm still in office and that we built the trust that the community needed--that indeed this job was going to get done and there'd be a safe place for children to grow up in--and we've done that."
The U.S. Navy used the air station, now known as Monterey Regional Airport, from 1942 to 1989. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been investigating groundwater contamination at and around the airport since the early 1990s under a federal program to clean up contamination resulting from military activities.
The groundwater cleanup project, initially expected to take about 30 years, was completed in about half the time, thanks to Farr and an influx of funding for formerly-used defense sites like the air station. With the additional federal funding, the project team, led by the Corps' Jerry Vincent, employed cutting-edge technologies to test and treat the contaminated groundwater sites, returning them to strict regulatory standards in around 15 years - including four years of study.
"Normally, we use what they call pump and treat; it's were you pump the water up, treat it and discharge the water," said Vincent regarding the groundwater cleanup technology. "The cutting- edge part was that we pumped the water up and added elements to it and re-injected it so it would accelerate the process of cometabolic biodegradation--we basically got the contaminated water to feed on itself."
In all, about 243 million gallons of groundwater were pumped, treated and returned to the ground. "And, we didn't waste any water in the process," said Vincent.
Naval Auxiliary Air Station