Wright-Patt seeks to abandon 175 wells by 2019

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base expects to abandon dozens of groundwater monitoring wells over the next five years because they are no longer needed to detect plumes of underground contamination, a base official said.

The base has more than 500 monitoring wells and most will remain when the others are abandoned, according to Treva A. Bashore, manager of the installation restoration program. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has given the go-ahead to abandon the wells, but the U.S. EPA must first sign off on the agreement, also, she said.

The first batch of 35 wells in Area A near Skeel Road would be abandoned this summer, and then 35 more a year will be retired through 2019. Wright-Patterson will not abandon so-called “sentinel” boundary monitoring wells, she said.

The city of Dayton, which first detected groundwater contamination near the boundary of the base decades ago, has more than 300 wells that monitor groundwater near the base, according to Jim Shoemaker, a city hydrogeologist. “Our network is strong … and we’re going to keep our eye on it,” he said.

Base environmental managers updated federal, state and local officials this month about environmental restoration efforts at Wright-Patterson, once declared a Superfund site, in a Restoration Advisory Board meeting at the Fairborn Library. In 1991, Wright-Patterson agreed to a federal facilities clean-up agreement with the U.S. EPA. Remediation work continues to monitor and treat groundwater and the collection of leachate and methane gas at landfills, among other priorities.

Since the early 1990s, Wright-Patterson has treated groundwater within the fence line for contamination mostly from trichloroethylene, or TCE, an industrial solvent suspected of causing cancer. It’s also removed or significantly reduced other volatile organic compounds in the soil and groundwater, according to EPA records and base officials.

In one case, environmental tests discovered TCE was leaking from a landfill and seeping toward the Roher’s Island well field, according to newspaper archives.

In 1992, the base built a $7.5 million groundwater treatment facility to remediate groundwater contamination from a landfill to avoid polluting the city of Dayton’s drinking water supplies drawn from an underground aquifer, archives show. The Ohio EPA ordered the construction of the facility when the city sunk test wells near the base fence line showing contamination flowing from Wright-Patterson, archives show.

The base plans to install a new and less costly but equally effective groundwater treatment system to replace an aging system, Bashore said.

Groundwater contamination levels in most areas have fallen significantly since restoration efforts began, but work remains in some areas of the base or was discovered years after the agreement was signed, according to officials.

Among ongoing work, restoration crews will remove contaminated soil this summer near a former dry cleaning site at Building 55, she said.

Crews have also cleaned the site of a former bombing and pistol range that’s now part of the base’s main runway. Everything from practice explosive devices to concrete re-bar was removed from the soil or destroyed, said Michael A. Brady, a Wright-Patterson environmental remediation manager. Analysis is ongoing at two other former shooting ranges.

According to the most recently posted U.S. EPA electronic record, the federal agency determined “all remedies at (Wright-Patterson) are protective of human health and the environment in the short term.” But it said continued enforcement of the controls set up in a land use plan were required “to maintain protectiveness in the future.”

The website added contaminated groundwater migration is under control on the base.

Over the years, environmental officials have documented 72 sites that landed the 8,145-acre base as a Superfund site, putting it on a national priority list for clean up.

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