Installation Restoration Program plays vital role in Soldier training

Published Feb. 7, 2019

The Army’s Installation Restoration Program is designed to address contamination from past activities and restore Army lands to useable conditions. 

The Louisville District’s IRP primarily supports the U.S. Army Environmental Command by investigating and remediating sites at active installations. 

According to USAEC, the Installation Restoration Program is one of two programs established under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program to identify, investigate and clean up hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants that pose environmental health and safety risks at active military installations and formerly used defense sites (under the FUDS Program).

“The Louisville District primarily works in soil and groundwater remediation,” said Craig Coombs, Louisville District IRP manager. “We use ex situ and in situ technologies for the remediation process.”  

Ex situ treatment like that of thermal remediation method calls for digging up soil, transporting it to an onsite thermal treatment unit, soil treatment, and placing the soil back in its original spot, Coombs explained. Soil remediation requires transporting soil to an offsite landfill and being disposed of. 

Whereas in situ treatment, the soil is treated in place by adding amendments, like vegetable oil for example, which enhances bioremediation, Coombs explained. 

“This happens frequently with petroleum-type releases – cleaned up this way with (natural degradation occurring in the environment),” Coombs said. “Groundwater can be done in a similar fashion with injections. We try to steer clear of pump and treat, which used to be a big technology issue (pump the water out, treat it and put it back in). It’s not a very effective technique.”

According to the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable, treating soil in place saves the cost of excavating and transporting the soil – a major cost advantage.

IRP ensures that soil and groundwater are safe to use as potable water, irrigation, agriculture or Soldiers’ training.
However, the Corps’ preferred cleanup remedy may face challenges. 

“Regulators may not be on board with the remedy we have selected,” Coombs said. “We have found that early engagement and transparent communication build trust within the team and community, which helps with the (restoration project) progression.”

With challenges, there are successes.

“In the past year or two, particularly at Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center, Ohio, we have had numerous records of decisions signed on the MMRP (Military Munitions Response Program) and a few on the IRP side,” Coombs said. “We’ve been able to get some sites that were slated for remedial action based on additional investigation to a ‘no further action’ status which allows for unrestricted reuse.”

According to Coombs this is big because this allows the National Guard to use the area for training. Also with Camp James A. Garfield, the Louisville District was able to expedite the cleanup of Winklepeck Burning Grounds allowing the Ohio Army National Guard to proceed with the construction of a Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range at the installation on schedule without any hindrances. 

“It’s important to the Army that we manage our environment and resources effectively, so they can continue to be used,” Coombs said. “We want to continue to have these sites clean so Soldiers can carry on with their training. Our ultimate goal is to support our Soldiers and the Army in managing their environmental compliance,” Coombs concluded.