MEAD – Last week’s open house and tour of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ cleanup site south of Mead didn’t report much in the way of changes for the ongoing project.
But, a new project manager was introduced. Molly Goughan has worked as a hydrologist and project manager for the Corps for the past 12 years.
For the past month, she has been transitioning into the role of project manager at the former Nebraska Ordnance Plant cleanup site.
Goughan, who works in the Corps’ Kansas City office, said last week’s visit was the first time she had been on site. Although she was just learning about the contamination left from government munitions production and storage decades ago at this site, she said she has worked previously with very similar projects.
The March flooding was also addressed during the open house at a treatment facility near county roads 6 and F.
Corps Assistant Mayss Saadoon said there was only minimal impact from flooding.
Contaminated groundwater pumped to plants for treatment is pumped out to nearby creeks. Saadoon said once gauges upstream hit certain levels, several groundwater extraction wells were shut down and water release was temporally stopped.
Lowland flooding nearby to the wells did not cause a problem for shutdown, however, as they could be controlled remotely. Flooded equipment was later dried out and returned to normal service.
Saadoon also reported several new wells are being drilled in the area south of Highway 66 on the west end of the cleanup site. These will be deep wells and used for investigation purposes.
During the bus tour of the site, these wells under construction were pointed out.
Stops on the tour included the two treatment plants located just off Highway 66 and County Road F. Bay West Treatment Plant Operator Jesse Phillips said both of these plants continue to operate as expected. Both are treating water at a rate of about 500 gallons per minute.
In response to a question about water testing, Phillips said removal of the contaminates from the water pumped through the plants continues to be successful.
“We do monthly, quarterly and annual sample tests. It’s pretty closely watched,” he said.
The treatment plants use air stripping and advanced oxidation to remove TCE, an abbreviation for a chemical solvent used when cleaning the ammunition. One of the other stops on the bus tour was to look at an ultraviolet light unit that is being used to remove RDX, an explosive, which seeped into the aquifer.
The water must pass through UV light for the contaminant to be removed.
“The best way to explain it is it’s like a tanning bulb on steroids,” Phillips said.
The UV treatment has replaced a previous treatment process using carbon. Phillips said the UV treatment process is preferred now because there is no carbon byproduct to dispose of.
Also on the bus tour was 1st Lt. Joshua Hruby of the Nebraska National Guard. He guided the tour as the bus traveled through the Guard’s training site near county roads 8 and J.
This area had been used by the U.S. military to house Atlas and Titan missiles, which also added to groundwater contamination.
Hruby explained how the area is now used for training and also offered some history of the missile silos that are still there.
The Air Force occupied the area in the early 1960s for its missile operations. The former NOP came into existence in 1942, when the U.S. Defense Department started producing bombs, boosters and shells there for World War II. During the Korean War, the plant was reactivated for munitions production.
The Corps has been charged with the cleanup of contamination left in the wake of this activity. Soil cleanup has already occurred, but groundwater treatment will be an ongoing effort for many years.