News | July 3, 2008

Brandywine DRMO site makes strides toward cleanup

By Pacifica Chehy Capital Flyer staff writer

The 316th Civil Engineering Squadron's Environmental Flight has made significant progress toward cleaning up the former Brandywine Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office site and its surrounding area.

"The restoration program assesses, investigates and addresses risk from historic releases of chemicals to the environment," said Brian Dolan, 316 CES Environmental Flight chief. Mr. Dolan added, "Old storage tanks, old landfills, old fire training areas where fuel was dumped and set on fire so the firefighters could practice putting them out -- all of these type of activities impacted the soil and some solvents leaked into the subsurface, including the groundwater. We are actively addressing all of these various issues on the base and in the surrounding area."

Located just eight miles southeast of the base, the Brandywine DRMO was used to store and auction excess government property and also acted as a weigh station for waste chemicals from regional federal agencies. Waste chemicals temporarily stored at the site included volatile organic solvents (VOCs) and electrical equipment that contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Some of these compounds spilled during handling on the facility as chemicals were repackaged for shipment and scrap metal was cleaned. This site was originally operated by the Navy and then the Defense Logistics Agency, but has now come under Andrews' administrative control. The 30 to 40 years worth of operations at the site resulted in spills that contributed to the contamination at Brandywine.

"This area was impacted from waste practices during the 1940s to 1960s -- before there were any environmental laws to govern such activities," said Mr Dolan. In the 1980s, the Department of Defense began changing the way it does business to avoid such releases, and also created the Environmental Restoration program to address old spills.

The Environmental Flight works closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as state and local government to ensure all elements of the cleanup are properly handled. The partnership has performed an extensive study of the area to ensure that cleanup is protective of the residents and the environment.

"The Andrews Environmental Restoration Program over the past year has removed 6,350 tons of PBCs from soils and restored the area," said Mike Rooney, a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor and restoration project manager. Mr. Rooney added, "The Air Force also began operations for groundwater clean-up at Brandywine in 1996, and has since treated over 7,000,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater, removing 224 pounds of VOCs from the site."

In 2008, the Andrews Environmental Restoration Program commenced an aggressive cleanup strategy that utilizes bioremediation, which takes advantage of naturally occurring microbes to digest the contaminants and clean the 21-acre groundwater plume.

"We are injecting a non-toxic, food grade material -- similar to vegetable oil -- into the ground," added Mr. Dolan. "That stimulates the microbes to break down chemicals more efficiently than through other methods. We will continue to operate and maintain the systems in place, with the ultimate goal to clean up the area for unrestricted uses. In the stream area, we have planted saplings and are encouraging the natural recovery of that area, in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It's a great project for the greater Andrews community."

Mr. Dolan said the restoration program's mission is to return blighted properties to beneficial uses, and the Brandywine DRMO is the top priority of his restoration staff. "In time, it could be converted into a park or used for commercial purposes to provide jobs for the community -- that would be very gratifying."