Report: With clean-up continuing, former Brunswick air base warrants vigilance

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BRUNSWICK — The group in charge of keeping the public informed about environmental clean-up at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station says people should be careful as they use the property.

Brunswick Area Citizens for a Safe Environment issued a report summarizing the clean-up work and what remains to be done. The report comes at a time when stewardship of the property is changing, and is designed to inform new owners of polluted areas on or around their properties.

It’s also directed at residents who are exploring the base, now that access is no longer restricted.

Ed Benedikt, BACSE president, said that in the past, the Navy had institutional controls to limit exposure to polluted sites, like restricting access to the base to military personnel and guests. With those controls gone, he said it’s important for people to know what’s there.

“The use of the term ‘cleanup’ can lead the public to believe that a remediated site is actually clean or somehow returned to pristine condition,” he said in an email. “In fact, low levels of contamination often remain in the environment once remediation is complete.”

He noted two former landfills on Orion Street that contain solvents, waste oil, paint and car parts, among other things. The landfills contained far too much waste to be removed in a cost-effective way, so the areas were fenced in to limit exposure.

But other areas have been effectively cleaned up, like an asbestos disposal site on Sandy Road that was excavated in 1993. No hazardous material remains at the site.

The Navy is just beginning to clean up some areas, like the quarry along the western edge of the base and the old skeet firing range. Other areas are undergoing active environmental clean-up, like the Eastern Plume, a 23-acre site of groundwater contaminated with volatile organic compounds and solvents.

Suzanne Johnson, the town’s representative to the Restoration Advisory Board, which advises the Navy on environmental clean-up, said the strategy for treating the pollution in the Eastern Plume changed recently. She said it’s important to continue monitoring the area to ensure the chemicals don’t spread, especially as surface uses around the plume change.

“It’s our concern that this not be forgotten so clean-up continues,” she said.

All of BACSE’s reports are available at the Curtis Memorial Library or online at community.curtislibrary.com/BACSE/index.html.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3361 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter:@guerinemily.

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