MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. --
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently presented the National Federal Facility Excellence in Site Reuse award to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Base Realignment and Closure Program Management Division for the environmental cleanup and redevelopment of the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina.
The award recognizes the hard work, innovative thinking and cooperation among the Air Force, EPA, state and local redevelopment agencies to complete the restoration and reuse of Myrtle Beach. The former base closed in 1993 and sits on 3,937-acres of property within the City of Myrtle Beach, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Recipients of the Myrtle Beach award include members from AFCEC, Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority, U.S. EPA Region 4, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the Myrtle Beach Restoration Advisory Board.
“The Air Force is honored to receive this award,” said Dr. Stephen TerMaath, AFCEC BRAC Division Chief. “It means a lot to be recognized among all of the Department of Defense base closure sites for our hard work at Myrtle Beach. I know it means a lot to the community, to showcase how their vision for redevelopment has become a reality.”
The EPA highlighted the unique partnership between the Air Force and the community to facilitate rapid cleanup and reuse.
Specifically, EPA noted the environmental accomplishments completed by AFCEC at the former base. Installation Restoration Program sites at Myrtle Beach included landfills, fire-training areas, hazardous waste storage areas and underground storage tanks.
Since the 1990s, AFCEC environmental engineers closed 229 IRP sites at Myrtle Beach. Today, only 15 sites remain open and include landfills, groundwater sites and sites with only land use control remedies. To date, $69.14 million has been spent on cleanup and another $11.01 million is anticipated to be spent before cleanup is complete.
Current land uses were considered during remedy selection. All sites are being cleaned up to residential standards, and remedies are protective of human health and the environment. There are no non-residential use restrictions on the soil or groundwater at Myrtle Beach.
Officials from the state and U.S. EPA speaking at the award ceremony noted the impact of environmental cleanup on the successful redevelopment.
The most notable redevelopment project at Myrtle Beach is The Market Common complex. In 2008, the $160 million project opened with 400,000 square feet of retail and office space, dining options, and 195 residential units. It is the fastest-growing area of the city with more construction underway.
Community officials at the ceremony included Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and retired Air Force Col. Buddy Styers, Myrtle Beach AFB Redevelopment Authority executive director.
Both expressed pride in the redevelopment, saying new homes and businesses generate $9 million annually worth of new property taxes for the city, county and schools.
“Not only has Myrtle Beach’s redevelopment provided thousands of jobs and significant growth to the region, it has also diversified the labor market. In place of government-only employees, Myrtle Beach now provides a wide spectrum of job opportunities,” Styers said.
Public Benefit Conveyances provided positive impact on the community, allowing the Air Force to transfer parcels at no cost. Myrtle Beach received multiple assets, including the golf course, all parks, recreation property and the base gym. Horry Georgetown Technical College received seven buildings and about 75 acres. The Red Cross received three buildings and two acres.
One of the biggest impacts from environmental cleanup has been the growth of Myrtle Beach International Airport. Prior to closure, the base airfield was joint-use, serving military and civilian aircraft. When the military departed, the airport opened to commercial, general aviation and air cargo traffic as a full-service commercial airport. Today, the airport generates an annual economic impact of $2.9 billion, according to state reports.