by Robin Kemp
Today, Friday, March 26, 2021 is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deadline for public comment on its proposed plan to clean up toxic waste at the FTG-01 dump site on the north side of the base. Records recently obtained by The Clayton Crescent show the Army has known about widespread contamination at Fort Gillem since at least 1978. Last week, residents of the Park at Fort Gillem, a privately-owned apartment complex of former base housing that sits on land they say is still owned by the Army, said no one had informed them of the toxic dumps that have leached into groundwater plumes both north and south of the base for decades.
The Clayton Crescent asked the Army’s point of contact for the public comment period, Thomas A. Lineer, and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for more details about the extent of the pollution at present and why the Army’s proposal did not list chemical remediation as one of the possible cleanup options. We also asked why the Army allegedly has begun injecting vegetable oil at the site prior to the plan’s approval.
Lineer did not respond to The Clayton Crescent’s questions.
Accoding to Georgia EPD spokesman Kevin Chambers, “the Army eliminated chemical remediation due to “’the short life of the chemical oxidant, the resultant increases in cost associated with multiple injections to reach remedial goals, and right-of-entry and safety concerns associated with off-post injections in residential areas.'”
The Clayton Crescent noted that, during a meeting with residents of the Park at Fort Gillem apartments on the south side of the base, Oasis Consulting Services’ Mike Monteleone had stated that the Army is already injecting vegetable oil, even though the public comment period on the plan has not yet closed. Chambers replied that FTG-01 “is located at the northwestern boundary of the former Fort Gillem Property.” (Under its deal with the city of Forest Park’s development entity, the Army cannot turn over possession of contaminated parts to the city until it cleans them up to a certain legal standard.) Asked whether the Army was jumping the gun if it already has begun injecting substances into the groundwater, Chambers replied, “Questions about additional bioremediation activities and locations should be directed to the Army.”
When The Clayton Crescent asked for “maps of the most recent, most accurate groundwater plumes, plume contamination boundaries, wells, remediation areas, and injections sites,” Chambers pointed to the maps in the [draft] FTG-01 plan submitted for public comment, adding “Other maps and figures can be obtained from the Army’s administrative records, which can be found at Fort Gillem Enclave.” The Clayton Crescent had e-mailed its questions to Georgia EPD on Wednesday. Chambers said on Wednesday and Thursday that he needed to get answers from other departments. Those answers arrived at 10:24 a.m. today, less than eight hours before the close of business on the last day of public comment.
The maps are some of the last pages in the report. If you have a computer, you can zoom in on the maps (use ctrl+ on Windows or command+ on Mac to zoom in and ctrl-on Windows or command- on Mac to zoom out) to see different areas, streets, creeks, and markings up close. The seven maps in the report include:
- Figure 1, “FTG-01 Site Location Map,” based on a 2018 aerial photo
- Figure 2, “FTG-01 Site Map,” based on a 2018 aerial photo
- Figure 3, “FTG-01 Topographic Map,” or Topographic Map r1.mxd”, showing elevations at Gillem Enclave on the southwest side, the FTG-01 North Landfill Area on the northwest corner (next to Ryan Road to the west and north, and south of Ravenel Road, Rock Cut Road, Bonnie Glen, Mallard, Falcon, and Slate Road to the north) and burial sites FTG-07, FTG-08, FTG-09, and FTG-10, which are south of the railroad tracks on the Hood Avenue side, according to the map
- Figure 4, “FTG-01 Trichloroethane in Overburden and Partially Weathered Rock Groundwater,” based on a 2018 aerial photo and showing “isoconcentration contours,” overburden wells, partially weathered rock wells, and multizone wells, both on and off base. TCE is a highly carcinogenic substance. Each well has a number and is labeled one of three ways:
- Red numbers mean the amount of TCE is more than the “tap water RSL” of 0.28 micrograms per liter. That number does not mean TCE was found in tapwater; it means the amount exceeds what is acceptable should it come through your pipes. “RSL” means “regional screening levels,” which are the numbers the EPA uses to figure out whether the contamination is a risk to human health. The EPA has technical tables in PDF and Excel spreadsheet formats, which it updates, as well as the equations used to calculate those risks, on its website. These require a good working knowledge of advanced mathematics to understand.
- Blue numbers mean the amount of TCE is less than 0.28 micrograms per liter.
- The blue letters “ND” mean TCE did not show up in testing.
- The yellow outlines are “trichloroethane concentration contours” that show where the Army says the TCEs have spread.
- The purple outlines are the “operable boundaries” of the sites OU-A, OU-B, OU-H, and OU-I.
- The orange outline is the FTG-01 site.
- Blue lines show where creeks, like Conley Creek, are.
- The thin black dashed and dotted line shows Fort Gillem’s boundary.
- Figure 5, “FTG-01 cis-1,2-Dichloroethene in Overburden and Partially Weathered Rock Groundwater,” is similar to the previous map but tracks where the Army thinks cis-1,2-dichloroethene has spread. Studies of lab animals show it can damage the liver, nerves, and lungs.
- Figure 6, “FTG-01 Other Volatile Organic Compound Exceedances in Groundwater,” similarly shows where other VOCs may be and specific places they have been detected:
- Red dot: one or more VOCs were found at levels above EPA tap water RSLs.
- Blue dot: either no VOCs found or VOCs below the EPA tap water level were found.
- Black dot: bedrock well
- Other wells on the map include overburden wells, partially weathered rock wells, multizone wells, or “no zone specified.” Here is a chart showing what the Army tested for and what the EPA says are dangerous levels of those chemicals in tapwater:
- Figure 7, “FTG-01 Injection Points and Performance Monitoring Wells” show two kinds of wells. Yellow circles with an arrow show “biobarrier or grid injection point(s),” which is where the Army has or will shoot its bioremediation formula into the groundwater. Yellow circles with a cross show “performance montoring wells,” which the Army has used or will use to keep an eye on how well the effort is working.
If you have questions, comments, information, or opinions to share with the Army or if you want the Army to hold a town hall meeting about the FTG-01 cleanup plan, you must e-mail them and tell them so no later than today, Friday, March 26, 2021. Send your e-mail to Tom Lineer, Chief, Base Realignment and Closure Field Branch (DAIN-ISE), U.S. Army, 1508 Hood Avenue, Room A-103, Forest Park, GA 30297 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to read previous stories about this, see “Gillem FTG-01 cleanup questions: an alternative?” You’ll also find links to our previous stories about the pollution at Fort Gillem near the bottom of that one.
If you want to see many more documents, some dating back to at least 1980, about the toxic waste and heavy metals contaminating Fort Gillem and surrounding areas, visit our new Docs page, which is a collection of public records. Be aware that there are many documents, and some are hundreds of pages long. You also can see Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed with the EPA by journalists, law firms, and others who, between 2013 and 2019, sought information about the contamination at Fort Gillem. To read each request and any documents the EPA released in response, click the blue tracking number.