US Army Corps of Engineers
Albuquerque District

Corps Contributes to Investigatory Efforts at Base

Environmental
Published March 1, 2011
Lt. Col. Williams observed the progress of the well drilling on Kirtland Mar. 1.

Lt. Col. Williams observed the progress of the well drilling on Kirtland Mar. 1.

Kirtland Air Force Base has been a part of Albuquerque since the early 1940s, when it started out as a transient base for bomber pilots en route to the west coast during WWII and a training base for bomber crews. Today, Kirtland hosts multiple tenant units supporting a myriad of activities.

Throughout the years, many different types of aircraft have been flown from Kirtland, and they all required fuel to fly.

In 1999, as part of a site investigation, a groundwater well was installed near the bulk fuels facility on base, and workers discovered groundwater contamination. Since then, more than 29 wells have been installed to determine the extent of the contamination.

In June 2010, the Army was tasked to develop a performance work statement for the remediation of the site, to respond to regulatory requirements. The Corps was handed this difficult task but was able to award a $22 million contract to Shaw Energy and Environment (Shaw) by the end of the fiscal year. Since that time, Air Force, USACE, Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment and Shaw have worked at a feverish pace to get the project initiated and in the field to meet the deadlines imposed by the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Hazardous Waste Bureau.

The field work started in early December, after NMED reviewed and partially approved the work plans. In January 2011, installation began on the first of 78 groundwater wells and 35 soil vapor monitoring wells, in addition to excavation of contaminated soils down to 20 feet. The wells are being installed using a drilling technique known as Air Rotary Casing Hammer to drill down to the 500-foot water table. To add to the complexity, a military construction project to remove and replace the aging bulk fuels facility continues nearby. Shaw plans on having up to nine separate rigs going at one time, to meet project deadlines.

The biggest challenges lay ahead, as work will move off the base and into residential neighborhoods to install 55 groundwater wells. The planning for off-base work has involved close coordination with local citizens’ advisory boards, neighborhood associations, the Veterans Administration hospital and the City of Albuquerque for permits and approvals.

The well drilling is estimated to take six months to complete, and it will take approximately two years to collect the data for the Risk Assessment, which will lead to the preparation of a Corrective Measure Evaluation. This report will detail the results of the investigation and a better understanding of the extent of contamination. The report will be used as a basis for the final plan of remediation.

Team members in the Kirtland Resident Office are involved with both projects.