Air Force to clean up station

EPA plans to oversee Neah Bay operation

NEAH BAY — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment by Feb. 13 on a proposed corrective action plan from the U.S. Air Force for cleaning up soil and groundwater contaminated by underground fuel storage tanks at the former Makah Air Force Station in Neah Bay.

“The Air Force is responsible for cleaning up the releases from the underground storage tanks. In addition to reviewing and approving the corrective action plan, EPA will be overseeing the field activities described in the plan,” EPA Public Affairs Specialist Suzanne Skadowski wrote in an email.

This site’s challenges include the number and location of the tanks in different areas on the Makah reservation, Skadowski stated. She said it’s a high priority for the EPA.

The success of the cleanup will depend upon how much contaminated soil can be initially removed and how extensive the oxygen releasing compounds (ORC) can be applied.

Public notice of the corrective action plan is also on EPA’s website, publicnotices, which also provides an executive summary.

In 2009, the Air Force submitted tank closure forms to the EPA indicating the underground storage tanks had been permanently closed between 1988 and 1989. A number of site investigations were conducted to the 2012 consent order. Some of the investigations were conducted under the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP).

In addition to approving the cleanup plan, EPA will oversee the onsite activities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its chosen contractor will manage cleanup and disposal on behalf of the Air Force.

Steps include excavating the contaminated soil as much as possible and treating the remaining contaminated soil and groundwater with ORC that will be applied to the excavation prior to backfilling.

In addition, the ORC will be added to the clean backfill within the excavation to provide additional treatment. Residual contaminated soil that cannot be excavated and groundwater will also be treated by injecting an ORC slurry into those areas.

The Air Force is responsible for the cleanup so EPA does not require any cost estimates or budgets from the Air Force.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which is managing the cleanup on behalf of the Air Force, is working with its contractor to determine applicable disposal sites.

If the cleanup standards are not met, then the Air Force will have to amend the corrective action plan to include additional remedial activities. Depending upon the results of the initial cleanup, these additional steps may include more excavation and/or ORC application.

The Makah Air Force Station was established on Dec. 15, 1950, and became operational in January 1952, manned by the 758th AC&W Squadron.

The new site assumed coverage from Lashup System site L-34 at Neah Bay. The station initially had both a Ground-Control Intercept and an early warning mission, which involved tracking and identifying all aircraft entering their airspace. The GCI mission involved guiding Air Force interceptors to any identified enemy aircraft.

Controllers at the station vectored fighter aircraft at the correct course and speed to intercept enemy aircraft using voice commands via ground-to-air radio.

The Makah Air Force Station and the 758th were deactivated on June 15, 1988, with the upper radar site continuing as a joint-use FAA/USAF JSS Site J-80. The lower site areas were returned to the Makah Tribe.

The U.S. Air Force voluntarily entered into a consent order with Environmental Protection Agency in 2012 to clean up the site.


Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at

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