Brian Lamont, senior project manager for the Navy's $8.3 million project to treat soil contaminated with PCB, explains the process. Soil with PCB has been collected from 21 Navy sites on Oahu and will be treated at the Kalaeloa plant.

Navy project gives
soil fresh start

The Kalaeloa facility is a
cost-effective solution, officials say

Over the next four months the Navy will "bake" 26,306 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated soil into an almost equal amount of sterile material.

By the end of this week the first load of treated and cleaned soil will be trucked from the treatment facility at Kalaeloa and returned to Ford Island.

It will be the first time the Navy has used such a process here. The Air Force is using a similar process to clean soil on Johnston Atoll contaminated by PCBs.

The Navy says process is cost-effective. It estimates it will save $10 million by consolidating the contaminated soil at one site on the island and then treating it, rather than shipping it out of state to be cleaned.

Janice Fujimoto, the Navy's project engineer for the project, said it would have cost $1,000 to ship one cubic yard of contaminated soil, but just $300 to treat each cubic yard.

The $8.3 million project began Nov. 21 on a five-acre site at Kalaeloa where the Navy had already stored 1,200 cubic yards of soil contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyl excavated from various parts of the area when it was used as Barbers Point Naval Air Station. The PCBs, used as insulating material in electrical transformers until 1977, had leaked into the ground. Use of PCBs has been phased out because they have been shown to cause numerous health problems, including cancer, in humans and animals.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, Navy spokesman, said the intent of the project is to collect PCB-contaminated soil from 79 transformer locations on seven naval installations on Oahu. So far 21 sites have been excavated and the PCB-contaminated soil trucked to Kalaeloa for treatment. About 6,000 cubic yards have already been collected from these 21 Navy sites.

The Navy said PCBs were found at three sites at Naval Transmitting Facility and the Naval Magazine facility at Lualualei; five sites at Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station in Wahiawa; four at the Naval Magazine at Waikele; three on the Waipio peninsula; 12 at Kalaeloa; two at West Loch; one at Iroquois Point and 66 in Pearl Harbor.

Brian Lamont, senior project engineer with Environmental Chemical Corp., said the process involves using high temperatures to separate the PCBs from the soil.

"We can take 100 tons of PCB-contaminated soil and deliver back to the Navy 99 tons of clean soil," Lamont said.

The contaminated sludge material will be shipped to Nevada and disposed of at an Environmental Protection Agency-approved landfill.

Lamont said the cleaning process takes 45 minutes from the time the contaminated soil is dropped into the hopper. From there, it moves up a 60-foot conveyor belt and is dropped into three large concentric drums where it is heated to 900 degrees.

"At 650 to 700 degrees PCB will be baked off and discharged into a vapor, cooled and reformed into a sludge," Lamont said.

At the same time, the sterile soil is rehydrated with water, Lamont said, collected and stored.

After 100 tons of the new soil is collected it is trucked out for reuse by the Navy. Before it is shipped, Lamont said, the dirt is tested.

"Once the analyticals are done and it meets cleanup criteria it is sent out," he said. "If it isn't, then it is sent back to the plant. The water that is recovered is treated, tested and reused to hydrate the soil."

Since the soil is sterile, it is covered with six inches of top soil, Davis said.

Lamont said the Kalaeloa plant will be working around the clock to process the contaminated soil. Lamont estimated that about 10 tons of contaminated soil is treated every hour.

Lamont said the entire processing plant is mobile and can be shipped anywhere.

Three air monitors are posted along the fence line.

"That's to make sure we know what is coming on the site," Lamont said, "and what is leaving."


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