By: Press release
By: Press release

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – On Oct. 15 Tyndall Air Force Base successfully completed the $ 5.5 million emergency phase of an environmental cleanup effort at Tyndall Elementary School.

This effort was a time critical removal action (TCRA) to remove contaminated soil and restore the school grounds for routine use by staff and students.

This emergency removal action began on July 6 and ended Oct. 15 when Bay County School Board Facilities Department performed a final inspection.

“The intent of this TCRA was to eliminate a potential threat to human health from exposure to lead shot and clay target debris (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) in shallow soils at the school,” said ChiQuita George, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) Restoration Section Chief. “We have achieved this action's objective.”

This TCRA is not the final cleanup action for the school property. A remedial investigation is scheduled to augment the TCRA with the necessary environmental characterization and additional cleanup action to follow. This investigation and subsequent cleanup activities will ensure the long term protection of human health, ecological resources and groundwater beneath the school.

In May, the Army Corps of Engineers, in coordination with the 325 CES Natural Resources Management, coordinated soil samples collection in and around the school yard as a part of the Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP). Results of these samples showed lead levels that were above acceptable residential Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

While the majority of the soil did not exceed the EPA’s residential screening value, Brig. Gen. Darryl Roberson, 325th Fighter Wing Commander, directed, as a precautionary measure, that the entire school yard be cleared of all such contamination.

The goal was to complete the project prior to the first day of school; Aug. 24. As the project progressed, additional sampling indicated clay target remnants settled deeper in the soil than originally assessed.

“Initial studies indicated the environmental remediation contractor, URS, would have to remove anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet of soil from 14 acres of land,” Ms. George said. “We originally anticipated moving approximately 15,000 cubic yards of soil.”

Due to the deeper settling of the clay targets, URS ended up removing 35,000 cubic yards of soil from the site during the cleanup, and deposited 50,457 tons at an off-site solid waste landfill, said Jady Harrington, URS Site Manager. The contaminated soil with higher lead concentrations was treated at the site by mixing in portland cement as a stabilizing agent and to reduce the likelihood of lead washing out of the soil into groundwater.

“Tyndall AFB, the EPA, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), URS, Tyndall Elementary School Staff, and the Bay County School Superintendent’s office all worked together as a team,” said Ms. Harrington. “Everyone was wonderful. We couldn’t have finished the project as fast as we did without everyone’s help.”

“It really hasn’t taken that long considering the amount of work that has been done” said Libbie Pippin, Tyndall Elementary Principal. “The people at Tyndall AFB and URS worked closely with us and kept us informed to ensure the safety of the children.”

The school board’s final inspection took about an hour on Oct. 15 and addressed minor work still being completed, building permit requirements and playground code compliance.

“I’ve been around it, touched it, felt it, and it all looks good.” said Paul Holland, Project Manager, Bay County School Board Facilities Department. “It’s better than we had. The school really made out,” he said after accepting the grounds from URS.

“We’ve had some improvements,” said Mrs. Pippin, “they installed some new playground equipment and put shade structures on the playground.”

“Ensuring that we care for our Airmen and their families is a top priority in the Air Force,” said Gen. Roberson. “The precautionary cleanup of the entire area was our way of ensuring the children at Tyndall Elementary, many of which are my Airmen’s children, have a safe environment to play in. I’m proud of the way everyone came together to get this cleanup done as quickly as possible.”

Tyndall Elementary was constructed by the Air Force in 1953 on the grounds of a former aerial gunnery school where more than 400 gunner students were taught each month from 1941 to 1946. Training at this range involved using turret-mounted machine guns reconfigured to fire 12-gauge shotgun shells at clay targets thrown from fixed towers. Both the lead shot and the remnants of clay targets could be considered potentially hazardous.

Soil replacement and beautification at Tyndall Elementary wasn’t the only action taken by the Air Force. The 325th Aeromedical-Dental Squadron’s Public Health Flight also offered lead screening to Tyndall Elementary students.

“Since the initiation of the cleanup at Tyndall Elementary, 89 students have been tested for lead at Tyndall and 14 have been tested in Bay County,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Wallace, 325th AMDS Public Health Flight. “Everyone tested has come back within normal limits.”

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