for decades the existence of these toxic barrels, buried under the golf course was denied. after lots of community pressure, look what was found ...
Barrels of sludge being removed at Lackland site
Contractors for the Air Force are removing barrels of sludge buried beneath a former golf course at Lackland AFB, the residue of degreasing operations at the former Kelly AFB.
By the end of the month, they expect to remove dozens of 55-gallon drums and dispose of them at a special facility near Robstown, said Mahalingam Ravichandran, Lackland's restoration program manager.
The drums were buried in the 1950s and 1960s in two areas that were being used then as landfills on what's now Lackland's southeast side, he said.
One landfill (No. 12) is located at the former golf course's 15th tee while the other (No. 14) is located a short distance away, Ravichandran said, adding that they're both near Leon Creek.
"Excavation started Monday and we expect it to be complete by the 21st at landfill 12," he said.
"Then we'll move to No. 14, and we expect to finish there in less than a week."
The work is being done in the evenings to minimize disruption to nearby jogging trails and Hall Road, which are closed during working hours, and because the workers wear heavy-duty safety suits that could get hot in the sunshine, the manager said.
He said that officials have known for years about the barrels, which were buried before environmental protection regulations were put in place.
Sampling shows the sludge is made of greases, dirt, metal fragments and about 2 percent of a solvent called trichloroethylene or TCE, Ravichandran said.
About a dozen feet of fill dirt was placed over the drums before the area was converted to a golf course in 1969. Air Force operations at Kelly were closed in 2001 and part of the base was transferred to adjacent Lackland.
Ravichandran said that investigations that started more than two decades ago showed the barrels were leaking into a shallow layer of groundwater that percolates through the area.
To prevent the pollutants from migrating into Leon Creek or off base, the Air Force in 1994 installed a system of wells around the landfills to pump the water and remove the contaminants, releasing the cleansed water into the creek, he said.
Workers are removing any contaminated soil along with the barrels and placing it all in huge bags and roll-off containers for transport and disposal.
"Once we complete the source removal, we're going to cap the landfill so there's no percolation of water reaching any residue that may still be there," Ravichandran said.
The sites are the last of the major ones at Lackland that should require soil or removal operations, he said, adding that once monitoring wells show the groundwater is no longer being polluted, the Air Force should be able to shut off the pump-and-treat wells.