Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Progress at Urunao?

Progress at Urunao?
by Ronna Sweeney
January 23, 2008

The $13.6 million Urunao cleanup project undertaken by Andersen Air Force Base to right the wrongs of their past is just over halfway completed. But has if one makes the trek up north, has any headway really been made? It's been quite the transformation up at Urunao since KUAM News first began reporting about the site back in February 2007. At the time it was nestled amidst dense jungle, with the steep terrain was riddled with unexploded ordnance, tires and metallic waste from the World War II era. Today environmental flight chief Russell Littlejohn says crews are slightly more than halfway through the expansive cleanup process, noting the sheer number of munitions and explosives of concern has been surprising."So far we've found 30,000 pieces of MEC," Littlejohn confirmed. "Those MECs right now are being stored and then they're burned in burn pits. So we have alternating burn pits where we do about 150 in each pit; about 750 pieces of MEC per week." Returning the area to its once-pristine condition is challenging, from caterpillar and crane operators to screeners and project leads, Shaw Environmental, the contracted company in charge of the cleanup, employs around 50 people on a daily basis. And to make sure contaminants aren't being left behind, there are even employees brought in just to test the soil. "We have a grid set up right now, about 72 grids on site one and as we go through and look at each grid so we can concentrate our efforts on each grid and do verification soil testing there," he added.Besides disposing of MEC and making sure the soil is safe, plenty of old tires and metallic debris has also been hauled off the Cliffside. Most of which Littlejohn says will be recycled. He adds that besides being the most extensive cleanup undertaken on Guam by the Air Force, it's also the most unique. AAFB is actually leasing the piece of property from a member of the Artero family on a monthly basis until the project is completed. Said Littlejohn, "We're working it. It's going to be cleaned up and it's going to be a piece of property that in the end we're going to give back to Guam in a better condition than when we took it."

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