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AEDC receives environmental award
TerraTherm foreman Jeff McDonnell prepares to change a filter bag at the thermal remediation project being conducted behind AEDC’s Model Shop. The project is one of the reasons AEDC won the Air Force Gen. Thomas D. White Environmental Restoration Program Award for the Air Force Materiel Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rick Goodfriend)
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AEDC earns command-level environmental award

Posted 11/19/2010   Updated 4/15/2011 Email story   Print story


by Patrick Ary
Arnold Engineering Development Center Public Affairs

11/19/2010 - ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- As a major environmental cleanup project at Arnold Engineering Development Center starts to wind down, the work being done to restore the environment here is getting some prestigious recognition.

The base recently earned the Air Force Gen. Thomas D. White Environmental Restoration Program Award for the Air Force Materiel Command. Arnold advances to compete with other major commands for the Air Force-level award.

Arnold's restoration program covers the Installation Restoration Program, the Military Munitions Response Program and the Operational Range Assessment Program. Denny Timmons, the Air Force program manager for restoration, says the focus for AEDC now is incorporating remediation methods that are green and sustainable.

"The Air Force set a deadline of 2012 for all bases to clean up or reduce the risk of contaminated soil and groundwater left by past industrial operations and practices," Mr. Timmons said. "Arnold met that goal in fiscal year 2010, well ahead of the deadline."

One project underway involves cleaning up contaminated groundwater at an old solvent cleaning facility behind the model shop on base. The seven-month project involves using an innovative strategy known as thermal remediation.

"This project, when completed, will save years of pumping and treating contaminated groundwater and result in a huge cost savings for the base," Mr. Timmons said.

Dennis Flatt, the Aerospace Testing Alliance section manager for environmental restoration and environmental compliance, says the thermal remediation project has collected more than 100,000 pounds of perchlorethylene contaminant from the groundwater since May, and it's possible another 100,000 pounds could be collected and destroyed before the project is over.

"All of the data indicates that this is going to be a very effective contaminant mass removal effort," Mr. Flatt said.

The thermal remediation involves putting electrical energy heaters in the ground and injecting steam into the bedrock. The perchlorethylene in the groundwater is heated and converted to a vapor, removed through a vacuum system and processed above the ground in an on-site equipment system.

The process here is one of the largest efforts of its kind in the world, and Mr. Flatt said it even attracted the attention of a group of Vietnamese citizens who were interested in seeing if they could put the technology to use.

"It's being looked at by people far and wide across the world as a demonstration of this technology," Mr. Flatt said.

When the thermal remediation is finished in early 2011, Mr. Flatt estimates that 99 percent of the contaminants in the groundwater behind the model shop will be gone. His team has had to do that while also making sure the model shop's work could continue without interruption.

"It has really been a challenging and rewarding opportunity to be able to work here at Arnold and see the site go through the investigation phase and through the remediation phase to having a remedy in place," Mr. Flatt said. "And we've done that through a number of sites already. This one was one of the most complex of all."

But the Gen. Thomas D. White award is for more than having one good project on base, according to Mr. Timmons. Named for the former Air Force chief of staff who changed the course of environmental programs, the award focuses on cleaning up the environment while conserving energy, saving money and maintaining great community relations.

Those are things Mr. Timmons said AEDC does through the other programs under the base restoration program, as well as through meetings twice a year with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and with a very active base Restoration Advisory Board.

"The success of Arnold's restoration projects has been teamwork and communication," Mr. Timmons said. "Teamwork and communication with AEDC stakeholders, teamwork and communication with TDEC, teamwork and communication with restoration contractors, teamwork and communication with the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment and the Corps of Engineers, and teamwork and communication with the community have continually kept Arnold's restoration projects at cost and on schedule."

"I'm proud of the people that make the program work," Mr. Flatt said. "I can't say enough about the professional staff we have at ATA and their diligence and perseverance in trying to see things through from start to finish."

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