KINGMAN, Ariz. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District finished a major cleanup operation July 31 on the Time Critical Removal Action of a Formerly Used Defense Site just outside Kingman.
The site, which is referred to as Munitions Response Site 03 of the former Kingman Ground-to-Ground Gunnery Range, covers approximately 75 acres. The area was used as a skeet range during World War II. The TCRA began before the cleanup phase. Before even having the opportunity to get on to residential properties to perform the cleanup activities, the District had to survey the area and get samples for study.
“This project started about seven years ago,” said Fran Firouzi, the District’s project manager. “There was a danger to human health and USACE headquarters decided that we needed to come in and perform this cleanup.”
Clay pigeons at the time the area was used as a skeet range were constructed with coal tar pitch which contained chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Skeet remnants, or the debris from these particular clay targets, remained in the area and were the focus of the cleanup effort. The District took on the project to "abate, prevent, minimize, stabilize, mitigate, or eliminate the release or threat of release” of contaminants according to Code of Federal Regulations 300.415(b) (1). Work on the first set of properties began Apr. 15, 2013.
“Some of the initial difficulties were getting the residents comfortable with the idea of giving us rights of entry onto their property,” said Bruce Wilcer, senior project manager with Ahtna Engineering Services, the District’s contractor for the second round of cleanup. “Communication from the Corps with the local community really did help a lot with that, though.”
The LA District team cleaned nearly 60 properties in the Chaparral Mesa II and New Kingman subdivisions during the TCRA and had only four refusals of entry, meaning residents or property owners would not allow the Corps or the contractor on to the property to conduct cleanup operations. Throughout the life of the project, Firouzi and her team conducted meetings in the area to keep residents informed about the project’s progress.
The District completed the project in two rounds. The first involved ten properties and was intended to show the residents what was involved. The District completed “round one” in early 2013 with Eco & Associates. After another public meeting in August 2013, the District began “round two” with Ahtna Engineering Services.
Once residents were off the property, the work involved removal of up to two feet of soil on each property and replacement with clean soil. All of the removed items were restored to their original location unless the property owners or residents asked for the items to remain off of the property. During cleanup, the District team and its contractor removed the landscaping, rocks and other similarly mobile items on each affected property and stored them in a secure location. The District also provided temporary relocation assistance for residents and their pets while cleanup was being done.
“I think the work was done very well,” said Eleanor Mikesell, a local resident who spent a few weeks in a local hotel while the District cleaned her property. “I hate living in hotels, being out of the house and eating in restaurants; but, I felt like I was kept involved in the process. I could see, from what they did on my property, that they really went above and beyond what there were required to do.”
The cleanup effort was a local, state and federal effort with the LA District working with officials from Mohave County and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Brian Stonebrink, the ADEQ project manager for this effort, has been with the project for more than seven years. ADEQ provides regulatory oversight and ensures that all sampling methods and procedures are met. Stonebrink said the partnership between ADEQ and the District has been a successful one.
“ADEQ has had a long standing cooperative relationship with the Corps of Engineers. We were able to partner with them to complete the investigation and the subsequent time critical removal action,” he said. “The Corps of Engineers has provided an appropriate level of response in remediating the residual contamination. The Corps has kept an open line of communication and addressed ours as well as the public’s many questions and concerns.”
Among the concerns of the residents was how well the District and Ahtna would return the property once the cleanup was completed. Some residents were worried the Corps would leave the property in a shambles; but, the team was able to alleviate those concerns by words and with their actions.
“They took pictures of everything here before they started and they put everything back where it had been before – except for two pebbles,” said resident Frank Chavez. His home was not on the original list of properties to be cleaned. However, after discussing the possibility of adding his property to the list, the District was able to include it without losing any time or adding any expense to the project.
“Had any one part of the project failed, the overall project would not have been nearly as successful,” said Chuck Holman, Ahtna’s director of environmental operations. “I think it’s really impressive that the Corps would do this and we were able to get it done on time. It really did take all of us.”
Rick Lainhart, a civil engineering technician with the District who has been the District’s on-site representative throughout the fieldwork portion of the project, attributed the success of adding the Chavez residence to the open communication and high level of cooperation among the District, Mohave County and Ahtna. Since there were property owners who had refused entry, there was some time available to complete cleanup for properties directly adjacent to the established field work. The properties were still within the study area; but were not on the list of properties originally set to be cleaned during this phase. Residents who participated in the cleanup process will remain informed on the disposition of their property.
“The residents will get a copy of all the final paperwork,” said Lainhart. “The paperwork clears the property so owners can sell it if they want. It also shows the location of all the utilities and lines and other items below the surface.”
Lainhart said residents or property owners would probably receive the paperwork around October because the final reports need to be staffed through all the agencies involved in the cleanup process. Mohave County officials were instrumental in the overall success of the project, said Firouzi and Lainhart. They were able to guide the District to local resources, like the utilities company, and helped move the project ahead and keep it on schedule. County officials said the close coordination among all parties involved kept residents content with what could have otherwise been a burden for them.
“There is an interesting level of acceptance among the residents. I think the fact that the Corps allowed the residents to choose whether or not their contractor had access to their property helped out,” said Christine Ballard, the Mohave County Planning and Zoning Division manager. “It allowed residents to be in control of their own destiny. From the residents who did allow the Corps to remove their soil, we haven’t heard any complaints. Most of the residents we have heard from are neighbors who were wondering when their yards would be cleaned up.”
The District is planning to hold a public meeting in September to discuss the next phase of the project, which will include sampling in areas around those already cleaned. However, there is no known timeline for any possible future cleanup activities in the area. The meeting will be held in the Kingman area and the District will be sending out letters to area residents in addition to sending a notice to the local newspaper for publication.