Air Force Begins Fifth 5-Year Review of Environmental Cleanup Activities at Former Norton Air Force Base

  • Published
  • By Dante Gulle
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Recently, the Air Force will begin its fifth 5-Year Review of environmental cleanup work at the former Norton Air Force Base. Reviews are formal evaluations and serve as a report card of the ongoing restoration activities.  

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center, a primary subordinate unit for the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, performs these reviews at all closed bases undergoing cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The reviews  conducted are in coordination with the EPA and the State of California (Department of Toxic Substances Control and California Regional Water Control Board).

In 1994, Norton AFB closed in the first round of base closures under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act of 1990. Past disposal of hazardous materials, such as solvents and other chemicals from when Norton was an active base; resulted in soil and groundwater contamination. This 5-Year Review inspects all remedies implemented since the 1990s to ensure the protectiveness of human health and the environment.

Environmental engineers and contractors in the coming months will review documents from operations, monitoring, and maintenance reports. The holistic review includes researching reports, inspecting cleanup sites and interviewing community stakeholders. It also analyzes if cleanup efforts are adequately addressing current regulatory requirements.

“The 5-Year Reviews are a great opportunity for us to take a comprehensive look at our cleanup work at Norton. It lets us know how we’re doing with operations and most importantly, determining the protectiveness for human health and the environment,” said Roy Willis, BRAC Environmental Coordinator.

Since its closure in 1994, Norton has been redeveloped into a major warehouse and distribution center for air cargo and goods to and from Southern California. Companies like FedEx and UPS operate larger aircraft using Norton’s expansive 10,000 foot-long runway. Known as the San Bernardino International Airport, it provides thousands of local jobs supporting aviation, manufacturing, and logistics. Major tenants include Amazon, Mattel Toys and Stater Brothers. In addition, the SBIA provides a base of operations for U.S. Forest Service air tankers for critical firefighting activities in the San Bernardino region.

The Air Force’s commitment to environmental cleanup and redevelopment of the 2,221-acre site benefits the community and the wider Southern California region. To date, AFCEC has spent $62.29 million on cleanup and projects another $10.6 million to complete the last remaining work. Out of more than 200 sites, only 9 sites remain open. All treatment systems at Norton are done; only limited sampling and monitoring remains.

The last Norton Five-Year Review was completed in 2015 and it determined that all remedies were protective and working as intended. This 5-Year Review is scheduled to be completed by September 2020 and a public notice will be issued when the review is complete.

For more information on the restoration of former Norton Air Force Base, visit the AFCEC page here.