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Air Force holding public meeting amid planned soil contamination cleanup at Hill AFB

By Ryan Aston - | Feb 28, 2024

Photo supplied, R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force

Deploying pilots with the 388th and 419th fighter wings prepare for launch at Hill Air Force Base on May 20, 2020.

The U.S. Air Force is providing the opportunity for the public to comment on a planned time-critical removal action, or TCRA, aiming to address soil contamination on the west side of Hill Air Force Base.

The TCRA public meeting will take place Thursday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Sunset City Building, located at 200 W. 1300 North.

Per the TCRA memo, a land transfer between the Air Force and the state of Utah to accommodate the planned construction of a new Interstate 15 interchange and Hill AFB access gate at 1800 North required the demolition of multiple Defense Generator and Rail Equipment Center buildings in the area. Their removal created an opportunity to test the soil.

As a result of the supplemental site investigation, a higher-than-acceptable presence of trichloroethylene, or TCE, was identified in the subsurface soil and groundwater. TCE is a chemical used as a metal degreaser and also to make refrigerants.

It was formerly employed as a surgical anesthetic and inhaled analgesic before the Food and Drug Administration banned its use in 1977. Exposure to TCE has been linked to an increased risk of kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other health conditions.

The highest concentrations were measured at a depth of 16-18 feet below ground surface, according to the memo. Meanwhile, the soil is saturated at 30 feet below the ground surface. Consequently, the high TCE concentrations at approximately 17 ft below the surface would be a continuing source of groundwater contamination if left unchecked.

As it stands, two shallow plumes — groundwater bodies containing contaminants, in this case TCE — originate on base and extend westward, beneath the cities of Sunset, Clinton and Roy.

Per the memo, there are “no immediate human health risks” related to the contaminated water, as groundwater is not used as a source of drinking water. However, previous risk assessment efforts noted a potential health threat should shallow groundwater be used for drinking water in the future.

Moreover, concern exists with construction in the area potentially requiring excavation that could reach the depths where contamination is present, which could result in workers becoming exposed.

The Air Force currently has systems in place off-base to reduce soil contamination levels. Given the new data, though, the Air Force intends to install a soil vapor extraction system, which would pull TCE vapor from the soil and vent it into the atmosphere. A filtration system also would be utilized in order to comply with air quality standards.

Soil and groundwater contamination is a widespread issue near military installations. Per a 2023 report from the Department of Defense, remedial investigation and cleanup efforts related to the release of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are either planned or already in progress at bases around the country, including at Hill AFB.

Members of the public who are unable to attend Thursday’s meeting in person are invited to attend virtually via phone or Microsoft Teams.

For more information on the TCRA or virtual meeting attendance, contact Barbara Fisher via phone at 801-775-3652 or Lindsay Burt via phone at 801-775-3301 or via email at Lindsay.Burt@us.af.mil. The TCRA document can be viewed at https://ar.afcec-cloud.af.mil by searching AR No. 633285 under Hill AFB.


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