Travis Environmental Project Managers Hit Home Run at Workshop By Merrie Schilter-Lowe 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Back from an Air Force-sponsored technology transfer workshop recently held in San Antonio, Texas, Glenn Anderson and Lonnie Duke have lost some of their anonymity. The two were among the keynote speakers that included Air Force and Defense Department leaders in environmental restoration. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Duke are environmental project managers with the 60th Civil Engineer Squadron at Travis. "Before we spoke, no one even said 'boo' to us. But after our presentation, we couldn't walk down the hall without someone coming up and asking for more information about the restoration program at Travis," Mr. Anderson said. More than 500 people from local, state and federal agencies attended the workshop to share ideas and current trends and technologies used in environmental restoration. Mr. Anderson, a hydrologist, and Mr. Duke, an environmental scientist, also presented case studies from several green and sustainable remediation technologies now in use or soon to be tested at Travis. GSR is a concept promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency to restore contaminated sites while reducing potential adverse impacts to the overall environment. Travis currently is testing phytoremediation and bioreactors. Mr. Anderson explained that phytoremediation employs vegetation to remove solvents from the subsurface, while bioreactors use biological and chemical processes to break down solvents into harmless compounds. The EPA and California Department of Toxic Substances Control have accepted some GSR technologies but are still evaluating others. Phytoremediation falls into the latter category, while bioreactors "have really proven themselves to be very hardy and maintenance free," said Mr. Duke. The two presenters had two main points for workshop participants. "First, we wanted to bring home the point that it's very possible to incorporate GSR in a base cleanup program and sometime in the future it will be necessary to do so," Mr. Anderson said. "Second, there are a number of valuable resources available to Air Force facilities to make this happen." Travis employs GSR technologies for several reasons, including reducing energy consumption and the costs associated with groundwater treatment technologies, reducing the impact on land and ecosystems, improving performance of existing remedial technologies and because it incorporates "more sustainable remedies," said Mr. Duke. For instance, when the environmental restoration team first began cleaning up groundwater sites, it relied on a "pump and treat" method, which meant pumping groundwater through a filtration system. Although this method initially cost a lot to operate, it was very effective in removing high concentrations of contaminants from a large quantity of groundwater. However, over time, the contaminant concentration and water volumes decreased while the cost to operate the pumps increased. "It was time to trade in the old SUV for a new Prius," said Mr. Duke. Solar power is also used on base. Travis began using solar energy to run a small extraction well network in 2004. According to Mr. Duke, solar-powered wells cost virtually nothing to operate, and they produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. "Reduced energy usage and the resulting reduction in GHG emissions are the most notable benefit so far to our program," said Mr. Duke. He also talked about two upcoming GSR initiatives being installed this summer at Travis. "I am excited about a new groundwater treatment plant that we are installing to treat a plume of methyl tertiary butyl ether that is moving away from the Army and Air Force Exchange gas station," he said. MTBE is a gasoline additive that helps to keep the air clean but has contaminated drinking water at a number of locations in California, most of them gas stations. "The new plant will utilize solar powered extraction wells and old carbon vessels that were mothballed at another plant." The second initiative involves injecting emulsified vegetable oil into groundwater contaminated with an industrial solvent called trichloroethylene. Naturally-occurring bacteria eat the oil, creating conditions that allow a second microorganism to break down the solvents. The environmental restoration team also will soon replace a thermal oxidation unit with another solar-powered bioreactor. Thermal oxidation involves burning contaminated vapors. But thermal oxidation uses as much natural gas as 300 average-sized homes per year, Mr. Duke said. The process also emits more than 200 tons of carbon dioxide annually. By comparison, a bioreactor breaks down solvents underground, uses no electricity and emits no by-products, "so it is a lot more environmentally friendly," said Mr. Duke. In addition to the graphs, charts and photos of processes used at Travis, the team of Anderson and Duke also explained the steps Travis took to implement GSR technologies and credited some of the agencies that helped with the process. Foremost was the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment, which funded six of seven cleanup studies at Travis. "In California, we call it free money," said Mr. Anderson. Not only does the AFCEE fund studies to determine if a treatment technology can be successful, it also provides technical expertise to protect, preserve, restore, develop and sustain the environment and an installation's resources. Air Force set a deadline of 2012 for all bases to have remedies in place to clean up or reduce the risk of contaminated soil and groundwater left by past industrial operations and practices. Travis will have remedies in place by the middle of 2012, Mr. Anderson said. He said that's one of the reasons he and Mr. Duke were invited to speak at the 2010 restoration workshop.