|A year and a half after a $6.2 million fire burned 20
buildings in Fort Huachuca's Splinter Village, the cleanup began in ernest
Tuesday with the removal of carcinogenic PCBs (polyclorinated biphenyl
contaminants) - remnants of burned electrical transformers at the site.
Employees of L & C Services of Anchorage, Alaska, the cleanup contractor, gathered the PCB debris by hand and placed them in 55-gallon drums for later disposal in a Nevada landfill, said Ray Huebner, base environmental coordinator with the garrison's directorage of engineering and housing.
The Army Corps of Engineers awarded the $897,000 cleanup contract to L & C, but the total bill may come in $50,000 to $100,000 lower, said Huebner.
According to Huebner, the original contract called for the fire debris to be buried in th Huachuca City landfill. Although Huachuca City originally agreed to the idea, the town council turned it down last October because of the presence of asbestos in the debris. Asbestos had been used to insulate steam pipes in the World War II-vintage buildings, and was also present in tiles and under tar paper on the roofs.
Asbestos is a cancer-causing substance if breathed into the lungs, but is otherwise environmentally harmless. Nevertheless, the council decided it didn't want to take any chances, according to Terry McGriff, town administrator.
Because the Huachuca City Town Council closed their landfill to the cleanup operation after the contract had been awarded, said Huebner, it forced the Army to come up with an alternative landfill - now established on the South Range of the fort. By avoiding tonnage fees at the Huachuca City landfill, using Morrison-Knudsen personnel at the landfill site and savings on transportation, the Army hopes to save $50,000 to $100,000 on the contract.
M-K employees have dug three large pits on the South Range in the middle of a training area. According to Ron Bridges, chief of operations and maintenance for the garrison's directorate of engineering and housing, the training area will eventually be where the garrison builds a new ammunition storage bunker.
By law, such bunkers have to have a large clear zone around them where no buildings can be built, he explained.
"The landfill for the Splinter Village debris will be within that clear zone, so it will not be disturbed for the foreseeable future," said Bridges.
Once L & C disposes of the PCB contaminants, said Huebner, they will strip asbestos out of damaged buildings at the site, including the remains of an old boiler.
After that, they'll systematically begin the disposal operation, bagging the debris. They'll finish by taking the top 12 inches of soil to the landfill, bringing in clean topsoil and seeding the area," said Huebner.
According to Bridges, the large bags will be shaped like giant logs, approximately 4 by 6 by 12 feet. After a layer of bags is put down in a pit, a six-inch layer of dirt will be pushed over it, he said. When the pit is full, a three-foot layer of dirt will be compacted on top of it, and they'll start on the next pit. Upon completion, the landfill site will be seeded and fenced.
With approximately 10,000 to 15,000 cubic yards of debris to bury, Huebner and Bridges hope that three pits will be enough, but if necessary, more can be dug out.
"We hope to have the job finished by mid-June," said Huebner.
Cleanup Begins: L&C Services crew members clean debris Tuesday from