MCCLELLAN AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Air Force Civil Engineer Center and regulatory agencies recently agreed to decommission one of the first Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) units employed at the former McClellan Air Force Base, California.
The unit, known as Investigative Cluster, or IC-1, completed its job removing more than 5,500 pounds of volatile organic compounds from the soil.
Unit IC-1, first activated in 1995, has been turned off since 2015. After its initial shutdown, samples were taken to ensure contaminant levels didn’t rise again. When engineers and regulators were satisfied with the results, they agreed to permanently decommission the unit.
IC-1 was put in place to clean an area underneath a former plating shop, where chemicals such as industrial solvents and degreasers were found in the soil.
Steve Mayer, McClellan's lead environmental coordinator, called the shutdown a milestone, bringing the Air Force that much closer to its cleanup goal at McClellan.
“The shutdown of IC-1 is an example of the success the Air Force has had using Soil Vapor Extraction,” Mayer said. “The fact that there are just three SVE units remaining means we are truly in the home stretch of our cleanup effort.”
The system worked by vacuuming volatile organic compounds from air spaces between soil particles. Those compounds are the result of past activities at McClellan that involved the use of fuels, solvents, cleaners and other chemicals.
The SVE unit's success mirrors similar results not only at McClellan, but at other Air Force bases across the country as well. Environmental engineers now rely on soil vapor extraction units like the one at McClellan to remove contaminants faster by removing them from the source, preventing more costly and wide spread contamination into the groundwater. Once in the groundwater, the cost and time to complete cleanup is substantially greater.
Phil Mook, Chief of AFCEC’s Western Execution Branch, says the technology helped revolutionize the Air Force environmental remediation program.
“The use of Soil Vapor Extraction was a game-changer for our cleanup efforts,” said Mook. “It’s a powerful tool for protecting our soil and groundwater supplies, not only at McClellan, but at cleanup sites across the country.”
With the success of these remediation systems, the goal of completing McClellan’s restoration is now well within reach.