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Environmental issues and protection important aspect of MacDill growth plan

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer
NASA photo by: Nick Stubbs
Shoreline erosion is an important aspect of MacDill's 2010 plan and this stretch of beach at the southeast corner of the base will benefit from an artificial reef placed just offshore in the shallows. The reef serves as a protective barrier against wave and tidal action.

As MacDill moves forward, expanding and improving to the beat of the 2010 growth plan, environmental issues and improvements are a cornerstone of the MacDill vision.

While home to a thriving Air Force base, the peninsula which supports MacDill is a largely natural environment, with acres of undeveloped woods, wetlands and Tampa Bay coastline. Ensuring the base remains in synch and harmonious with its natural surroundings is a key element of the master plan designed to carry MacDill well into the 21st Century.

As with other aspects of the plan, taking care of old problems is a first step, and environmentally that means removal of oil and water separators at several locations. Retrofitting water lines with backflow prevention devices is another project on the list of fixes. In addition, upgrades are needed to the waste water treatment plant at the southern end of the base.

The oil-water separators are a remnant of MacDill's past and once were used to remove oil from drain water before the water was expelled into the bay. The base has long since stopped draining water into the bay, yet several of the underground oil separators still exist. Since they included water drains to the bay, the separators remain a pathway for undesirable material possibly getting released.

"We just want to get rid of them to eliminate the possibility of something getting into the bay," said Michael Harrison, the water projects manager for the Environmental Flight of the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Mr. Harrison said another project is a three-phase effort to install some 300 backflow prevention devices. In a survey, it was found many water lines leading to boilers and mixing vats and that supply water to chemical tanks did not have the devices, which are designed to stop water from backing up into the water supply.

Mr. Harrison said about a third of the lines have been upgraded with the devices and over the next two years, the remainder will be installed. The work is being handled under a $1 million budget that includes related water line fixes.

Mr. Harrison said at this point much of the remaining work to upgrade the waste water treatment plant is minor, such as screens and meters. That is because over the last five or six years, there has been many improvements to the facility. In addition to the hardware and technology relating to environmental issues on base, controlling shoreline erosion has become a priority of the 2010 plan, said Jason Kirkpatrick, conservation programs manager with the 6th CES.

The natural tidal action of Tampa Bay gradually erodes the sand around MacDill, removing thousands of square feet of land or about a foot of sand shoreline per year, he said. Projects like the recent installation of reef balls, which are erosion barriers that double as oyster homes, go a long way toward slowing the process, said Mr. Kirkpatrick. The devices sit in the shallows, blocking wave and tidal action to reduce erosion.

The project, completed recently, involved 800 feet of the dome barriers, said Mr. Kirkpatrick. Next year another 800 feet will be installed, paid for with $30,000 awarded through the Air Force and a matching $30,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another 800 feet of reef is scheduled for 2006.

Another issue addressed by the master plan is preventing sand and sediment runoff into the bay. Mr. Kirkpatrick notes that with all the construction on base, there are many runoff issues to address, as impervious surfaces send water flowing whenever it rains. Sand and sediment carried with that water finds its way into drainage ditches and pipes, clogging them.

Retention areas, silk screens to help block off runoff and construction sites and general education of those working on projects around the base are critical to ensuring problems don't arise, said Mr. Kirkpatrick.

"It a lot about educating contractors about their responsibilities but it also involves some action," he said. "We've already added sediment catch basins so there are actions we can take."

Of all the environmental issues the base faces, drainage and related matters is perhaps the biggest, said Mr. Kirkpatrick. "Eighty percent of MacDill is in the flood plane and drives every project on base," he said.




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