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Release Date: 06/04/1998
Contact Information: Johanna Hunter, EPA Community Involvement Office, (617) 918-1041 Alice Kaufman, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1064

BOSTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified the U.S. Air Force today that the EPA is denying the Air Force's request for extension of a key deadline in the cleanup of the Massachusetts Military Reservation, and is assessing substantial penalties for the Air Force's failure to meet this deadline.

The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence (AFCEE) was to deliver a draft cleanup plan by May 30 for controlling pollution at two chemical spill sites where elevated levels of heavy metals, including chromium and lead present an unacceptable ecological risk. The EPA is assessing stipulated penalties of up to $5,000 for the first week of delay (May 31 to June 6) and up to $10,000 for each additional week until a draft cleanup plan is submitted.

The EPA's decision is based on the fact that the delay in developing the draft cleanup plan resulted from the Air Force's failure to communicate within its own departments about the 1996 demolition of a sewage treatment plant that greatly affected site conditions. Although AFCEE learned of the demolition early this year, it did not take timely action to avoid delay.v

"The delays are entirely attributable to one hand of the Air Force not being aware of what the other hand is doing. This is not acceptable. Appropriately, it will result in a stiff fine. I hope it will also result in the Air Force getting the work done well before its proposed extension date of December 1998," said John P. DeVillars, administrator of the EPA's New England Office.

Despite the fact that demolition of the former sewage treatment plant began in January 1996, the Air Force issued a draft feasibility study detailing the contamination problems and potential remedial alternatives in September 1996, and a draft proposed plan outlining proposed remedial solutions to regulators in December 1997. Neither of these two documents addressed any of the potential impacts that the sewage treatment plant demolition activities might have on site conditions, accuracy of sampling data or remedial actions being evaluated in the draft feasibility study.

"The EPA finds it unacceptable that a project of this magnitude -- sewage treatment plant demolition -- was conducted by the Air Force's own 102nd Fighter Wing in 1996 and that AFCEE was unaware of this action for close to two years. The demolition work directly impacts the proposed cleanup plans given to EPA and the Commonwealth," DeVillars said.