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What does the Future hold for the Green River Test Site?


A public meeting was held in Green River recently to discuss the findings of the environmental analysis at the Green River Test Site, a satellite location of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The Green River Test Site was placed on the federal agency hazardous waste compliance docket on June 27, 1997. The last Pershing missile was launched from the site in 1975. The last Athena missile was launched in 1971. The missile base has been void of activity, except for a time period when several of the buildings in the cantonment area were leased by the army to Green River City. The base was officially deactivated in 1983 and maintained in a caretaker status from 1976 through 1986.
Soil and water samples were taken from 27 sites, identified as areas of concern, throughout the base and extensive testing of these samples was done to evaluate any contaminants. Of the 27 sites, six of them have been identified to have minor contamination. A proposed action for cleanup includes the removal of the soil and its being relocated to an appropriate disposal site. One of the sites was an informal landfill where spent Pershing boosters and other trash were buried. Another site is an unlined sump adjacent to the former motor pool building where unknown amounts of oil, antifreeze and other such products were potentially disposed is an unlined sump.
One of the prime reasons for the analysis was to identify any contaminants that might effect a future owner of the site. The testing and analysis has been ongoing over the past three years. Initially in an attempt to secure the site against further vandalism, areas were fenced and some cleanup took place. Six underground storage tanks were removed and disposed. Transformers were also removed from the site.
A full asbestos and lead based paint assessment is now needed on the existing buildings as part of the property excess action.
Jose Gallegos from White Sands said, “Our part in doing the environmental assessment had to be completed before the land issue could be dealt with. In 2004, the excavating of these contaminated sites will take place. The geophysical survey determined that over a one-half acre area an informal landfill has the presence of metallic debris buried some eight feet deep. Of the six areas of concern where further actions will take place, it was determined that a potential risk to humans and the environment exists at only two of the sites, the motor pool sump and surface soil adjacent to each of the Athena missile launch pads. In place of further study and performing costly risk assessments, the Army is opting to remove all contaminated soils from the site. The remaining four sites either have buried material or may potentially have buried material, which will be verified. All buried material will be removed and properly disposed.
At the former motor pool, a backhoe will be used to excavate and remove the wood-lined sump and all contaminated soil for proper disposal and clean soil will be used to replace any soil taken out. Also, the drain inside the building will be plugged with cement to prevent any additional fluids from being poured down the drain. This removal is planned for early 2004. No problem was found with the sewer lagoons which they originally thought would need to be filled in. Public comment is being received on the proposed actions which will take place at the site. Each of the six cleanup sites will be taken care of with their own cleanup plan and action. Each cleanup will have its own planning document. As each planning document is completed it will be made available for review and comment. William Little, senior geologist, said they will write the document, tell the regulators, tell the public and then do the work. Removal actions are expected to take place in 2004.
The remaining cleanup actions include excavation of soil and buried debris at the former Pershing landfill , at the Athena Launch Complex, and the former pistol range. Test pits will be excavated at two sites, the former fire training area and landfill/dump/disposal pit, where the geophysical survey indicated debris may be buried. These cleanups are planned for later in 2004.
The real estate department will do their work parallel to the planning documents. Before the Green River Test Site can be declared excess property, any cleanup required must be completed and the property will need to go through a pecking order to determine if any other federal agency might want the site, if not, then it will go to state agencies and on down. Green River City has expressed interest in acquiring the site for some time. Green River Mayor Glen Dale Johnson said that White Sands has been very good about keeping the city informed as the process has been worked through. White Sands officials have been very cooperative and agree that the site would be a benefit to Green River City. The mayor pointed out that a lot of work has been done and they will keep on working until the site belongs to Green River. The process of declaring the site as excess property will have to be approved at Army headquarters in Washington D.C. before a final transaction could take place. The land being considered at this time is only for the cantonment area. The original 3,450 acres of land is also a mixture of White Sands ownership, state school trustlands and the BLM lands which are currently under a lease with White Sands Missile Range. Diana Moya, realty specialist for White Sands said that in order for the city to acquire any of the other lands, negotiations would have to be made between that agency and Green River City.
Mayor Johnson pointed out that the Utah National Guard had expressed an interest in using the test site for training. Samuel Sanchez, chief engineering division, mentioned the possibility that the national guard could be a high priority choice and they could be included under the Department of Defense and have first pick of the site. It was mentioned that the national guard might have liability issues and would need a fence around any test area that they owned. Talk also centered around the possibility of Green River City owning the site and just leasing to the national guard for their trainings which would help with the liability issues. Mayor Johnson expressed his wish that the whole process of declaring the site as excess property could be put on the fast track.

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