Pacific Southwest, Region 9: Superfund
Serving Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and Tribal Nations
March Air Force Base
EPA #: CA4570024527
City: Located near Riverside
Congressional District: 43
Other Names: March Air Reserve Base
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Description and History
NPL Listing History
NPL Status: Final
Proposed Date: 07/14/89
Final Date: 11/21/89
The 7,123-acre March Air Force Base has been used for aircraft maintenance and repair, refueling operations, and training activities since 1918. In 1980, the Installation Restoration Program (IRP) was developed by the Department of Defense to locate and clean-up hazardous waste sites. The Air Force conducted a preliminary investigation of 39 potentially contaminated IRP sites on base which included three fire training areas, seven inactive landfills, underground solvent storage tanks, an engine test cell, and spills. There are now a total of 44 IRP sites on the March Air Force Base. Three zones of groundwater contamination beneath the base were identified and wells on base were shut down in the late 1980's. Groundwater contamination has migrated to wells located off base; however a groundwater containment system has been installed to prevent off-site groundwater migration. These wells are no longer in use. Approximately 11,600 people obtain drinking water from municipal wells within three miles of the site.
Contaminants and Risks
- Soil and Sludges
Groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and jet fuel. Soils contain VOCs and heavy metals. Potential health threats may exist for individuals who accidentally ingest contaminated soils and groundwater. The drinking water wells at March ARB were closed in the late 1980's, and the base now gets its drinking water from the Eastern Municipal Water District.
Investigation and Cleanup Activities
This site is being addressed in five stages: immediate actions and four long-term remedial phases which were divided, for the most part geographically, into four operable units. These operable units are identified as follows: (1) East March/Main Base; (2) West March; (3) the Panero Area which is IRP site 33; and (4) the entire base. Operable Unit 2 has been split into two OUs, the Reserve open portion and the closing portion. Operable Unit 3 is no longer included in the CERCLA process because the contamination is petroleum only, which is exempt from CERCLA. OU3 is being investigated and remediated with the oversight of the RWQCB. The Air Force completed a base-wide 5 year review in 2009.
In 1988, the Air Force closed all contaminated drinking water wells on and off base. Affected residents off base were initially provided with bottled water and then were connected to the public water supply. People on base are provided water through the municipal water system from the Eastern Water District. In 1990, design of a system to remove VOCs from groundwater began. The contaminated groundwater interception and treatment system was put into operation in 1992. The removal of abandoned underground storage tanks and contaminated soil was completed by the Air Force in 1992. In 1993, the Air Force began pumping and disposing of free product floating on the groundwater beneath a fueling system.
Operable Unit One - East March/Main Base: In 1990, the Air Force began an investigation into the groundwater and soils contamination at this operable unit. Following the investigation of East March/Main Base and the groundwater plume it was determined that clean-up actions were necessary at IRP sites 4, 10, 15, 18, 31, and 34. The cleanup actions for this operable unit were selected in a Record of Decision (ROD) in June 1996.
Operable Unit Two - West March: The investigation of this operable unit took place between 1992 and 1997. When the base was transferred, Operable Unit 2 was split into two separate RODs, one for the Open Reserve side and one for the Closing side of the Base.
The OU2 ROD for the Closing side of the base was completed in April 2004. Most of the contamination in this portion of the base consisted of low levels of contamination from early landfills. These landfill sites (grouped together as Site 6) have already been remediated by excavation, sorting, and reburial at a consolidated site. Most of this work was completed as part of removal actions between 1994 and 1997. The Final OU2 ROD for the closing portion of the base included remedial actions for IRP sites 3, 6, 12, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 35, 40, and 42.
A second ROD for OU2 was completed in September 2005 for sites 1, 11, 37 and 39.
Operable Unit Three - Panero Area: The Panero fueling area, in the middle of the base, is contaminated with petroleum (JP-4 jet fuel) leaked from underground storage tanks. The Air Force began a study of contamination associated with jet fuel in the groundwater vadose zone and groundwater at the Panero fueling area of the base in late 1991. Aggressive free product extraction and soil vapor extraction in the vadose zone is ongoing. Because this is a petroleum only site, this site has been removed from the CERCLA process and is being addressed through the State's corrective action program. The actions and final remedy will not change, however EPA will no longer have an oversight role.
Operable Unit Four - The OU4 ROD was completed in September 2005. This ROD addressed remedial actions at seven sites on the Closed Portion of the base; Sites 21, 41, 44, 3410, 6601, the former hospital/dental clinic, and Site L (the former swimming pool. No further action was selected for all sites except Site L which required Institutional Controls.
The Air Force is conducting an RI/FS at two sites within OU1. An in-depth investigation was performed at Site 8 and 36 in 2006. The AF will conduct a pilot study to evaluate enhanced biodegradation as a potential remedy at Site 36. This will include a study to see if the microorganisms naturally present at the site can be enhanced to accelerate biodegradation at the site. After the pilot study is complete an RI/FS and a ROD will be prepared.
The Air Force is conducting an investigation and cleanup action at Site 7 where previously unknown contamination was recently discovered.
The Air Force is evaluating the performance and adequacy of the EGETs pump and treat system to determine if it is operating properly and successfully. In addition, the adequacy of the groundwater containment remedy for the Site 4 Landfill is being evaluated.
The water table at March AFB is rising at approximately 2 feet per year. The water table is about 10 feet below the ground surface in some areas. March AFB is monitoring the groundwater level to make sure that contaminated groundwater does not infiltrate the storm drain and sewer systems.
March Air Force Base was classified as a realignment base in the summer of 1993 under the Base Realignment and Closure act. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for reuse of about 75 percent of the base land was completed in Spring 1996. Of the original acreage, about two-thirds or about 4700 acres has been declared excess and has been turned over to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) office of the Air Force, while the remaining one-third or about 2400 acres is now part of the Air Force Reserve. The portion of the base being retained has been renamed March Air Reserve Base (ARB). EPA has approved 29 transfer documents for properties at the base. At this time, all properties planned for transfer have been completed.
Cleanup Results to Date
Providing an alternate water supply to affected residents and on-site personnel has eliminated the potential of exposure to contaminated drinking water. The removal of underground storage tanks, soil, and floating free product, and the treatment of contaminated groundwater continues to protect residents near the March Air Force Base site while investigations leading to the selection of a final groundwater cleanup remedy are completed. Several removal actions have been conducted at the site. A cap has been constructed over the landfill located at IRP Site 4. The landfill at IRP Site 6 was re-engineered to receive non-hazardous wastes from various other sites at the base. EPA, DTSC and RWQCB are working with March ARB to further characterize the groundwater contamination plume in the south eastern portion of the site. Regular meetings are held to discuss issues and monitor the effectiveness of the ongoing remedial actions.
Potentially Responsible Parties
Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) refers to companies that are potentially responsible for generating, transporting, or disposing of the hazardous waste found at the site.
The Air Force and Air Reserve Board are PRPs for the site.
Documents and Reports
Public Meetings: Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meetings are held twice a year with community and RAB members. Information about the March ARB RAB are available at the March ARB website under the environmental program.
Public Information Repositories
The public information repositories for the site are at the following locations:
EPA Site Manager
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Community Involvement Coordinator
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
EPA Public Information Center
Cypress, CA 90630-4732
2990 Graeber Street
March Air Reserve Base, CA 92518
After Hours (Emergency Response)