George Air Force Base occupies 5,347 acres and is located in San Bernardino County, California near the cities of Victorville and Adelanto. The base was established in World War II and closed in December 1992. Its mission was to support tactical fighter operations and provided training for air crews and maintenance personnel. To meet mission requirements, the base engaged in a variety of support operations such as aircraft maintenance and fire fighting training that mandated the use and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous materials.
Groundwater is contaminated with jet fuel, trichloroethylene (TCE), pesticides, and nitrates. Soil is contaminated with total petroleum hydrocarbons, dioxins, construction debris, medical wastes, pesticides, semi volatile organic compounds, and various inorganic compounds. Accidental ingestion of, or direct contact with the contaminants may pose a health risk.
Though toxic contamination has been know to exist at the base as far back as the early 1970s, a broad cleanup of the base involving state and federal agencies has been ongoing since 1990. The cleanup addresses a chemical cocktail consistent with many other decommissioned Air Force bases. Heavy industrial solvents like trichloroethylene (TCE), chlorinated pesticides like dieldrin and aldrin, as well as common jet fuel constituents like ethylene dibromide, benzene and naphthalene are among a long list of known contaminants found in the soil and groundwater. – Truthout 4/17/16
Potential Contaminants of Concern:
Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM), Aviation, Benzene, Chlordane, Diesel, Explosives, unexploded ordnance (UXO), munitions and explosives of concern (MEC), Gasoline, Heating Oil / Fuel Oil, methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) / tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA) / and Other Fuel Oxygenates, Munitions Debris (MD), Nitrate, Other Insecticides / Pesticide / Fumigants / Herbicides, Other Petroleum, Other Solvent Or Non-Petroleum Hydrocarbon, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBS), Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHS), Radioactive Isotopes, Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), Toluene, Trichloroethylene (TCE), Vinyl Chloride, Waste Oil / Motor / Hydraulic / Lubricating, Xylene
Current Site Status (the following is verbatim from the EPA):
To better manage site investigations and cleanup, three operable units (OUs) were established for the site. OU-1 is the 600-acre trichloroethylene (TCE) groundwater plume in the Northeast base area and extends off base. OU-3 is the landfills and/or disposal sites with other various soil sites contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). OU-5 is a TCE soil contamination source column over the OU-1 groundwater plume, and also includes three former skeet ranges. OU-2 was pulled out of the Superfund process in 2005 for state oversight. OU-4 and OU-5 were created and later combined as OU-5. OU-4 was to document completed response actions for miscellaneous sites that dropped out from OU-2.
Initial Actions: In 1991, the Air Force began operating a pump-and-treat (PAT) system with air stripping for groundwater contaminated with TCE under OU-1’s northeast base area that migrated off base. In early 1992, the Air Force started removing jet fuel (JP-4) free product at OU-2 using passive skimming technology, and supplemented soil vapor extraction (SVE) for removing VOCs from soils several years later. Remedial actions for various OU-3 sites started in the mid-1990s to remove VOCs from soil sites. A pilot SVE project in OU-5 addressed the TCE soil source column. Soils contaminated with metals were removed from the former skeet ranges.
OU-1 Northeast Base Area: The long-term remedy, selected in 1994, included PAT and access controls for the TCE groundwater plume beneath the northeast base area. The flushing approach pushed TCE to the edge of the upper aquifer where it is “temporarily stored.” It could take many decades for it to migrate or cascade into the lower aquifer. The steep terrain in the area prevents any efficient monitoring or remedial actions. The PAT system has been shut down since 2003; it was making the TCE migration problem worse. The Air Force discovered that Site FT-082 was a TCE soil source column to the OU-1 groundwater plume and implemented SVE in 2007 as a pilot project. A remedy update for the OU-1 groundwater plume is under development.
OU-2 Jet Fuel Plume: OU-2 has over two million gallons of free product in groundwater. Passive skimming to remove the jet fuel from groundwater started in 1992 and monitored natural attenuation was the planned supplement remedy. The Air Force implemented SVE at EPA’s request to remove VOCs from the contaminated soil. In March 2005, the Air Force withdrew OU-2 from the Superfund process and converted the cleanup management process to a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). The state assumed the regulatory lead.
OU-3 Landfills, Disposal Areas and VOC Sites: Selected remedies included capping and access controls for landfills/disposal areas, and bioventing or SVE for VOC sites. Response actions for the landfills/disposal areas were completed. Actions for VOC sites are ongoing.
OU-4 documented “no further action” decisions for following sites: AOC 72/Current Skeet Range, AOC 73/Second Skeet Range, AOC 74/Original Skeet Range, AOC 75/Indoor Range, AOC76/Dozer Scar Area, AOC 77/Disturbed Area, AOC 78/Explosive Ordinance Disposal Training Area and AOC 80/Building 513. Skeet ranges were carried forward to OU-5. All other OU-4 sites were documented by the Air Force’s 2008 No Further Response Action Report (NFRAP).
OU-5 is mainly an active SVE system at Sites FT-082 and SS-083 put in place to remove the high TCE levels in soil acting as a source column to OU-1’s TCE groundwater plume. OU-5 also includes three closed Skeet Ranges that are not expected to require further action (OT072, OT073 and OT074). The long-term remedy for these areas is under development.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) issued a Notice of Violation letter to the Air Force for dieldrin pesticide contamination in groundwater. The Air Force is only monitoring the pesticides in groundwater, as the levels are very low, but the plume has not been fully defined because of funding constraints. The Air Force would not consider EPA’s request for an evaluation of the contamination extent in soil because the Air Force does not classify it as a CERCLA release to the environment; past general practices mandated the routine application of pesticides for termite control. The Air Force submitted another CAP document to address dieldrin; it is currently under State of California Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) review.
Site-wide Ready For Anticipated Use Status: NO
Site-Wide Ready for Anticipated Use – Indicates a final and deleted construction complete National Priorities List (NPL) site where, for the entire site, 1) all cleanup goals in the Record(s) of Decision or other remedy decision document(s) have been achieved for media that may affect current and reasonably anticipated future land uses of the site, so that there are no unacceptable risks; and 2) all institutional or other controls required in the Record(s) of Decision or other remedy decision document(s) have been put in place.
George AFB does not meet the above EPA criteria yet.
Cleanup is ongoing since the 1990s. The AF is primarily responsible for this cleanup.
Despite Air Force assurances, question marks hang over the thoroughness of the base cleanup. These include the concern that dangerous chlorinated pesticides — which were used heavily at George for decades — are present in the ground surrounding two former base schools that were transferred over to the Adelanto Unified School District in 1995, prompting the local water board to urgently push for soil testing to be conducted there. – Truthout 4/17/16
Surrounding areas, including major rivers, may be impacted already by soil vapor plumes underground.
Known groundwater contamination at George encompasses approximately 1,800 acres, while a trichloroethylene plume spanning roughly 700 acres threatens the adjacent Mojave River. Because there are data gaps in the scope of the current monitoring wells, regulators admit that the Mojave River may already have been impacted by contaminants.
Of note, there is an emerging new trend or answer to contamination problems being pushed by the military. George AFB is no exception.
The Air Force…would prefer an approach of “monitored natural attenuation” — a process by which contaminants are essentially left to naturally degrade. – Truthout 4/17/16
We discuss this new “do nothing” approach in an upcoming editorial. Sounds good for the military because, of course, it mitigates costs and activity for them. What this method means for you, however, is another story altogether. It could take hundreds or thousands of years for this type of contamination to fully degrade into the environment.
Plus, this does not even begin to cover recent reports about additional nuclear radiation contamination at George AFB.
Given the holes in George’s radiological history, and given that no one can currently pinpoint the exact whereabouts of the former decontamination center, there needs to be sitewide soil testing for radioactive contaminants, said Jane Williams, executive director of California Communities Against Toxics and a leading environmentalist in California. “People could already have been exposed to radiation and not even be aware of it,” she said. – Truthout 4/17/16
NPL Status: Final
Street Address: AIR BASE RD- NR ST RTE 395, VICTORVILLE, CA 92392
Congressional District: 25,8
EPA Superfund ID: CA2570024453
Superfund Records Center
Mail Stop SFD-7C
95 Hawthorne Street, Room 403
San Francisco, CA 94105
Air Force Base Conversion Agency
George AFB Field Office
18374 Phantom Street
Victorville, CA 92392
Remedial Project Manager (RPM):
Other Relevant Links & Resources:
- EPA Site 1 on George AFB
- EPA Site 2 on George AFB
- Documents Resource on George AFB
- Community Page for George AFB
- “I’m Mad as Hell”: Air Force Members Blame Health Horrors on Toxic Exposure