High-pressure steam injected hundreds of feet into the ground will heat and push up fuel saturating the soil at a storage area used from 1941 to 1991 at the former Williams Air Force Base in Mesa.
Members of the Former WAFB Restoration Advisory Board were given a tour of the above-ground installation Sept. 16 at South Sossaman Road and Ulysses Avenue. It is across from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and near Arizona State University at the Polytechnic campus.
Millions of gallons of fuel could have been leaked into the soil at the old fuel-storage facility, according to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality website. It is ST012 or Site 12.
“Liquid fuel storage facility (ST012) is the former fuel-storage depot. From 640,000 to 12 million gallons jet petroleum grade 4 (JP-4, jet fuel) and aviation gas (AVGAS) may have been released at site ST012. The actual quantity is unknown,” according to the ADEQ website.
“The idea is to mobilize that material out of the soil… (and) move that water, vapor, product mixture up to the surface,” Don Smallbeck, AMEC vice president, said after the tour.
The steam will heat and free fuel for removal. In an above-ground treatment system, liquid fuel is recovered, separated and reused to power the system, he said.
The U.S. Air Force awarded a $39.2 million competitively-bid, nine-year performance-based remediation contract to AMEC in August 2011 for the continued remediation of the former WAFB, Linda Geissinger, public affairs specialist for Air Force Civil Engineer Center Western Region, said in a Sept. 18 e-mailed response to questions.
AMEC shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange where the company is listed in the oil equipment and services sector, according to its LinkedIn site.
“The goals of the (performance-based remediation) contract – and how proposals were evaluated – were to maximize the number of site closures, while reducing the Air Force’s total life-cycle costs of the cleanup,” Ms. Geissinger wrote. “The steam-enhanced extraction system site is the largest and most complex of the ongoing cleanup sites at Williams that are included in this contract.”
“The major benefits of the nine-year base-wide contract and use of (steam-enhanced extraction) technology are a 32 percent reduction in the total life-cycle costs for environmental cleanup requirements at the former Williams AFB,” Ms. Geissinger wrote in another e-mail response to questions.
Steam-enhanced extraction equipment has been installed by TerraTherm, a contractor of AMEC, and was slated to begin operation Monday, Sept. 22.
“Start-up is what we’re in the middle of right now, so by the end of this month the system will be up and running,” Everett Wessner, an AMEC official, said after the tour.
The thermal treatment zone has three steam-injection intervals – 145-160 feet, 160-195 feet and 210-245 feet, according to a second-quarter 2014 newsletter from TerraTherm. The wellfield has 88 steam-injection or extraction wells in a flexible setup allowing wells to serve as either steam injection or extraction wells as needed during operations, according to the TerraTherm newsletter.
AMEC and the U.S. Air Force could not by press time provide the cost of the steam-enhanced extraction equipment being used at the former WAFB fuel storage area or how much the contract was from AMEC to TerraTherm for the entire project, from design to installation and operation.
Two Mesa residents who toured the installation – including donning head-protecting hard hats and climbing a ladder to a tower overlooking holding and discharge tanks, air strippers and cooling towers – were Beverly Selvage, a member of the restoration advisory board and a resident of Sunland Village East; and her grandson, Brandon Selvage.
“Oh my; amazing. Awesome is more like it,” Mrs. Selvage said of the facility.
“I actually think it?s fascinating what they’re doing with it,” her grandson, Mr. Selvage, said.
The 4,043-acre Williams AFB was a flight-training school in 1941. During its 52 years as a military aviation, training, supply and maintenance complex, several areas of the former base were environmentally impacted from industrial practices that were legal and commercially accepted at the time, according to the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s website.
Contaminants from military operations include organic solvents and paint strippers, petroleum, metal plating waste, hydraulic fluids, pesticides and radiological wastes. In 1983, the U.S. Air Force implemented the Department of Defense Installation Restoration Program to identify, investigate and remediate sites at Williams AFB. In 1989, the base was added to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List as a Superfund site, according to the website.
The fuel-extraction site at Sossaman and Ulysses is one of 82 areas the USAF found that needed some form of environmental cleanup. A total of 67 of those have been closed and require no other cleanup work, according to a history of the projects provided by Ms. Geissinger.
Total cleanup costs are $89.6 million at the former WAFB as of fiscal year 2013, Ms. Geissinger said in a phone interview Sept. 18. Cleanup of the remaining sites will cost an additional $40 million, she said.
As a result of these cleanup activities, the Air Force has transferred 3,892 of the former base’s 4,043 acres to state and private ownership, according to the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s website.
“This whole area is one of the Air Force’s crown jewels for redevelopment because they have managed to turn it around and make it a success with the college and the airport,” Scott Johnston, a contractor in public affairs for the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, said at the tour.
The restoration advisory board is tasked with providing a way for the U.S. Air Force and regulators to educate the community about the environmental cleanup work at the former Williams Air Force Base. Members meet quarterly with officials from the USAF and contractors to discuss the progress of cleanup efforts. On Sept. 16 the board met at ASU Polytechnic campus’ Peralta Hall Room No. 132, 7171 E. Sonoran Arroyo Mall. They watched a short video that showed the property before and while the equipment was being installed and then were loaded into two vans and taken to Site 12 for a briefing by Mr. Smallbeck. Also at the site were Steffen Griepke Nielsen, principal engineer and technical director for TerraTherm; and Emily Corkery, AMEC construction superintendent.
After the briefing and a chance to view a portion of the facility, the board members were taken by van back to the classroom for discussion on Site 12 and other projects.
Federal EPA and state ADEQ officials attended the briefing and tour, Cathy Jerrard, Air Force Civil Engineer Center base-realignment and closure environmental coordinator, said after the tour.