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Progress seen on Urunao cleanup project

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The $13 million cleanup project beginning at Urunao is drawing a lot of attention. Around 1945, the U.S. Air Force had used the cliffside as a dumping ground for all sorts of non-biodegradable materials. Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Guam EPA and Andersen Air Force Base are moving to right the wrongdoings of the past.

AAFB has been registered as a national priority listed site. And though AAFB remedial project manager for Guam EPA Mike Cruz says the base is not entirely contaminated, it does hold potential ecological, public health and chemical risks. "There has been public concern that Agent Orange may have been applied at AAFB, but to the best of our knowledge we still have yet to determine that that is the truth," he said.

Cruz says that the Guam EPA has been looking into the Urunao site since the late-1980s. And as we previously reported, the timeline allotted for the project is around thirty months, but Cruz says just how much damage the dumping ground contains has yet to be determined. He explained, "There was no control on what was being dumped during that timeframe. So we are just going with what field investigations have revealed. In most cases, we have found a lot of lead contaminated soil."

Besides testing positive for lead in the soil, large amounts of solid waste were dumped over the cliffside during the mid-1940s. But perhaps the most hazardous part of the cleanup process deals with an unknown amount of unexploded ordnance. "The UXOs would be the priority issue here," stated Cruz, "because we aren't sure if they are safe to be moved and AAFB may have to detonate in place. Then our role would be to ensure the public knows this is happening."

Cruz also states that a munitions expert has contracted in to help with UXO disposal. As for metals and tires, both will be taken to recycling facilities and shipped off-island; the same goes for soil contaminated by PCBs. Cruz encourages the public as this project progresses to attend one or more meetings of the Restoration Advisory Board.

Visit the Guam EPA online to learn more
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