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Global Savvy Takes Environmental Remediation To A Higher Level

In an effort to mitigate threats to public health and the environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund program identifies the nation’s most critical hazardous waste sites in need of remediation. In July, the Superfund’s National Priorities List (NPL) showed upward of 1,300 sites with known (or threatened) releases of hazardous substances—including 1,189 private properties and 157 federal facilities.

One example is the Welsbach and General Gas Mantle (Welsbach/GGM) Superfund site in Camden County, N.J., which has been on the NPL registry since June 1996. Remediation activities spearheaded by government agencies at all levels have been ongoing for 12–15 years, says Bruce Fox, project manager at APTIM, a global provider of design and construction solutions. Currently, APTIM is engaged in a five-year task order to handle cleanup of the Welsbach/GGM site. Thus far, the company’s team of environmental remediation specialists has removed approximately 10,000 tons of contaminated materials from the area.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, EPA radiological testing confirmed radioactive soil contamination (thorium and radium) created by two former incandescent gas mantle manufacturing plants: Welsbach Co. and General Gas Mantle Co. The ore tailings and other manufacturing wastes from these facilities—as well as debris from demolished onsite buildings—were used as fill material throughout the surrounding areas.

Much of APTIM’s work is taking place on the Gloucester Marine Terminal property, where Holt Logistics Corp. operates an active port, warehouse and logistics complex containing about 95 acres, 25 buildings and four berths. “This is one of the busiest seaports on the East Coast,” Fox explains. “Hence, it is challenging to coordinate remediation activities with efficiency and within budget constraints while the facility simultaneously maintains operations.”

According to the EPA access agreement with the terminal, excavation can only take place between April and November to avoid negatively impacting operations during peak seasonal periods. Working around scheduled shipping needs also requires flexibility on the part of the APTIM crew, which is responsible for excavating contaminated material, constructing/relocating underground utilities, performing radiological testing of soils and water, dewatering, water treatment, importing clean backfill for site restoration, waste management and other various tasks.

“The terminal has been very accommodating in granting access to areas of the facility that are not hugely impacted by operations,” Fox says. “We’ve also been successful at negotiating to work during additional time periods, enabling us to complete the project faster.”

The fact that the port facility is located right on the Delaware River calls for an advanced level of care and expertise. “We possess extensive experience in working along navigable waterways and in remediating both shallow- and deep-water excavation areas,” Fox notes.

In early August, for instance, massive storms rolling through the area produced heavy precipitation resulting in contaminated groundwater within the project zone. “We had to be careful to prevent run-on and runoff using diversion dikes, poly liners, frac tanks, manifolds and other methods. We trucked all contaminated water to our facility in Gloucester City, where we discharged it in accordance with EPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) standards,” Fox says. “To date, we’ve treated more than 3 million gallons of water collected from this site.” He anticipates at least another decade of work before the Welsbach/GGM site is contamination free.

A Battalion of Environmental Cleanup Experts

Supported by a staff of 5,000+ spread across 80 offices worldwide, APTIM specializes in engineering, program management, environmental

services, disaster recovery, complex facility maintenance and construction. And for more than 30 years, APTIM has partnered with the U.S. federal government and its agencies on both domestic and foreign projects— including those in fortified, remote or hostile locations.

APTIM Senior Vice President of Environmental and Decommissioning Federal Services Sina Seyedian, PE, provides some great insights about his firm’s expertise in this highly specialized market. “I’m responsible for APTIM federal environmental and decommissioning work, which includes a military munitions response program (MMRP) that handles things such as unexploded ordnance (UXO) cleanup, chemical warfare material (CWM) tasks and Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) projects,” he explains. “ We also often work with the EPA’s Radiological Emergency Response Team (RERT) to clean up radiologically contaminated media, soil, buildings, etc.”

Seyedian highlights several signature projects demonstrating APTIM capabilities. The first is the decommissioning of a U.S. Army barge called the STURGIS, a retired floating nuclear power plant containing an MH- 1A reactor used in the 1960s and 70s to provide power generation in remote locations, such as the Panama Canal. The former World War II Liberty Ship was deactivated in 1977 and stored in the James River Reserve Fleet in Virginia until 2015, when it was towed 1,750 nautical miles to Galveston, Texas, for final decommissioning.

“This project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Baltimore District is a first of- its-kind undertaking in our country— and possible even the world—because we are decommissioning a nuclear power plant on a floating barge versus a physical building on land,” Seyedian notes.

He points to another unique effort in southeast Arkansas, where the APTIM team is handling the safe disposal of chemical warfare materials at the Pine Bluff Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, which between 2005 and 2010 destroyed 123,100 munitions containing approximately 7 million lbs of chemical agent previously stockpiled in the U.S. Army’s Pine Bluff Arsenal. “On this project, we are going through a very precise process to remediate contaminated soils and uncover chemical warfare materials, such as mustard gas, buried underground,” Seyedian says.

APTIM is also cleaning up MMRP items in the small community of Adak, Alaska’s southernmost city. “Logistically, this project for the U.S. Navy is very difficult because it is in such a remote location. We have to take very piece of equipment and all of our people there,” Seyedian explains. And nearly 7,000 miles across the world, another crew is currently wrapping up the installation of water treatment systems at two U.S. Army bases in South Korea to address aqueous filmforming foam (AFFF) contamination. AFFF is a compound combining fluoro- and hydrocarbon-surfactant technologies that is highly effective in firefighting suppression efforts.

“No matter the size or scope of the job—or where it takes them—APTIM’s staff is always focused on staying safe in a downright dangerous line of work. We have a very robust safety program and a fantastic safety record,” Seyedian says.

APTIM. In Pursuit of Better.