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BRAC Deadline Haunts EPG Cleanup

Who builds the Parkway link remains a bone of contention.

Before 18,000 personnel head to the Engineering Proving Grounds (EPG) as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Report (BRAC), the 820-acre site must be "cleaned" of any potential decaying munitions and waste storage to make it environmentally safe.

That process has been ongoing for the past two years, not only to make the site ready for its new tenants but also for the construction of the last link of the Fairfax County Parkway planned to flow along EPG's southwestern perimeter. It will consume nearly 170 of the 820 acres. That portion of the cleansing process is scheduled for completion next month, according to Donald Carr, public affairs officer at Fort Belvoir.

"The road portion of the clean-up is virtually done," Carr said. "There is only one site left that contains an old storage tank which remains to be cleaned up."

"Thus far there have been 7,000 tons of soil removed from EPG," he said. "That 170 acres of soil clean up will be done by March, at which time the cleanup documentation will be provided to the EPA for review. Construction of the Parkway link could begin now as far as that 170 acres is concerned."

The same cannot be said for the remaining EPG acreage. A major step impacting the future construction process for the rest of the site, once used by the Engineer School from the Belvoir Research and Development Center, is making sure the entire area is environmentally safe, according to Laura Curtis, project environmental specialist.

"That preparation includes range clearance and solid waste management unit investigation and remediation, if required," she said. "If necessary, cleanup will be done before, or in conjunction with scheduled construction on the site."

To make that happen, the Environmental Compliance Office is working with three companies — TetraTech, Inc., Tidewater Inc., and Conti Environment Infrastructure — to identify the extent of the area to be cleansed. Another subcontractor, Zapata Engineering, is completing the actual range clearance, according to Curtis.

"Fort Belvoir has a long history of training in various areas of the installation," said Kevin Kivimaki, environmental specialist, SpecPro, a government-contracted company. "EPG happens to be one of those areas that was more intensively used for intrusive munitions, research and development, and mine detection."

LOCATED ABOUT EIGHT MILES from the main post, EPG was acquired by the U.S. Army in 1940, according to Fort Belvoir historian Gustav Person. Throughout the next three decades the grounds were used for a variety of activities by the Corps of Engineers, then based at Fort Belvoir.

"During World War II, it was used as a simulated airfield and for fuel oil storage and demolition activities," Person said. In 1988, a contractor hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified areas of the EPG that contained solid wastes of various natures that could adversely impact human health or the environment, according to Curtis.

Fort Belvoir is relying on both old records and aerial photographs to aid in the cleanup process. "It was through one of those aerial photographs that the old storage tank site was spotted," Carr said.

Work on EPG has been ongoing since September 2006. So far less that 10 munitions have been unearthed. But more than 26,000 pounds of scrap metal have been found.

Because of the instrumentation and methodology being used whether a piece of metal is scrap or an old munitions cannot be determined until it is dug up. "All these items are examined by an Unexploded Ordnance Device crew and then recycled," said Kivimaki.

In order to accomplish this task, so that construction can begin, the Army has alerted impacted neighborhoods to expect increased construction traffic as well as occasional explosions of military ordnance. "This effort will continue until December 2008," said Carr. "Thus far the Army has spent approximately $16 million on the cleanup effort."

THE MOST IMMEDIATE ELEMENT of the cleanup applies to that 170-acre portion of EPG that will provide the missing link to the Fairfax County Parkway: a connector between the Rolling Road and Newington interchanges. Although the land is expected to be ready for construction by March, disagreement remains over whose responsibility it is.

That was a prime topic of discussion at the Feb. 5 meeting of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The lingering dispute is whether construction falls to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) or to the U.S. Army.

In the opinion of Supervisor Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), no dispute exists. He has stated many times that the Army was instructed by Congress, and more specifically U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), to build the road. He reiterated that again during the recent Board's meeting.

It has been estimated that construction of that interchange at EPG to facilitate access and egress of the BRAC related work force will range in the neighborhood of an additional $50 million. However, it has also been noted that a diamond interchange is less costly and more traffic friendly than a cloverleaf design.

The other element to be taken into consideration concerning the additional traffic flow as a result of BRAC is that the workforce of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency works on a shift basis which spreads out the personnel flow over a given 24-hour period. That agency accounts for approximately 12,000 plus of the 18,000 personnel scheduled for the EPG site.

In assessing BRAC's impact on the need to construct the Parkway's missing link, Carr said: "Any BRAC need to complete the Parkway hardly trumps the other more long-standing, more important community needs for its completion. BRAC only reemphasizes that need. Without BRAC, we in the community would still need the Parkway to be completed."

The draft BRAC Environmental Impact Statement for Fort Belvoir is due to be released Feb. 23, followed by a 45-day comment period. EPG, and the ongoing cleanup, is expected to be a significant part of that document.