Thanks to the efforts of dozens of stakeholders, the U.S. Army is about to realize a success story of epic proportions, infusing more than $1 billion and 2,000 new jobs into a local economy, all through the development of a property declared “excess” by the Army a little over a decade ago. The former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant (VOAAP), located on more than 7,400 acres in Chattanooga, Tenn., was an important TNT manufacturing facility for the Army from World War II through Vietnam. In July 2008, more than 30 years after the last TNT was produced, a German automaker announced it would build a state-of the-art manufacturing facility on 1,300 acres of the former VOAAP site.
Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Instead of letting this property lie fallow, future generations to come will find gainful employment, continuing a long tradition of manufacturing while helping an automaker share its 21st century vision of sustainable mobility.
The Road Less Traveled
This project involved a host of innovative federal site restoration tools, including early transfer, Triad, performance-based and firm-fixed-price contracting, a performance-based measurement system, and a keen vision for redevelopment of what is now the Enterprise South Industrial Park—a premier Tennessee Valley Authority-certified mega-site purchased and developed by the city and county.
In 2005, only one year before the Army’s desire to solicit a performance-based contract, the stakeholder group, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, the Army Environmental Center, the U.S. Army BRAC Division, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDEC), was collectively not confident in the extent of contamination defined at the site over the previous 10 years of study.
Most critical to the pending issuance of a contract was the corresponding cost to complete. The area in question was TNT Manufacturing Valley, consisting of 16 batch lines and other facilities totaling more than 800 acres. To this point, although much data had been collected, it was not fully integrated into a comprehensive conceptual site model (CSM). Further challenging the project was difficult site access due to significant overgrowth resulting from decades of inactivity. Finally, and probably most challenging, was the site’s complex geology and hydrogeology, which consisted of highly-faulted karst bedrock and thick, tight clay residuum from 10-ft to more than 105-ft thick. To meet the goal of meeting the established timeframe for the performance-based contract, the Army turned to two consultants to tackle the data gaps and finalize the CSM.
One of the three tenets of EPA’s Triad approach is strategic planning. Because of the magnitude of the data gaps, site complexity, and compressed timetable of the task, Tetra Tech spearheaded a strategic planning process that used a preliminary CSM and highly-flexible work plan as the focal point for the large, diverse stakeholder group to come together toward a consensus vision. A group of Tier 1 project stakeholders was assembled, representing multiple DoD branches, representatives from the local City and county Government, and Federal and State regulatory agencies. Numerous planning meetings were conducted early on in the process and at all times, filling data gaps was the continual drum beat. One of the biggest “strategic planning” challenges was the fact that while one Army contractor – Shaw E & I - was tasked with delineating this 800+ acre area from ground surface to 20 feet below ground surface (bgs), and a second – Tetra Tech – was tasked with deep residuum and groundwater.
Dynamic Work Strategy
For a project of this magnitude, especially with the schedule that was set in motion, developing and implementing a dynamic work strategy was critical. A typical iterative investigation approach with multiple mobilizations would simply not suffice. Having two federal contractors slice the site in half vertically posed an additional challenge. On contractor, working under a fixed-firm-price contract, turned this into an advantage and devised an iterative process, allowing the shallow soil delineation to get about 3 months ahead before commencing its task of filling data gaps in deep soil and residuum.
Through collaboration, the contractors very quickly compiled the shallow soil data into a powerful database and began developing a detailed but flexible work plan prior to mobilization. Key to the project’s success was the diverse and experienced field team, which included geologists, hydrogeologists, engineers, geographic information system (GIS) specialists, chemists, data technicians, and field and office administrative teams. Not only were all the technical skill sets represented on the project team, but team members were in frequent communication, using a host of tools to monitor progress in real time. Furthermore, one contractor project team in close communication internally, it also used innovative tools to maintain frequent communication with the key project stakeholders.
The centerpiece of the communication and data management was the presence of an on-site GIS database that managed large volumes of data, able to generate real-time 3D graphics that depicted the extent of contamination. The site manager frequently generated 3D maps on site and provided them to his field crews to make daily decisions on boring placement, advancement and sampling strategy. In essence, the CSM for this 800-acre parcel was modified weekly, sometimes daily. Using the colorful 3D maps and e-mail, the contractor kept the regulatory stakeholders apprised of the progress and allowed for input, again in real time.
The third tenet of EPA’s Triad framework is real-time measurement. According to EPA’s Triad website, “realtime measurement systems represent the third leg of the Triad approach. They are essential for implementing dynamic work strategies because they feed timely data to the decision-making process.” Toward this end, the contracted consulting firms collaborated in hiring a mobile laboratory provider capable of conducting on-site testing for nitroaromatic compounds. Within a week, the provider established three on-site labs using common construction trailers. Using fundamentals of EPA’s performance-based measurement system, the lab personnel demonstrated an alternative approach to meeting the project data quality objectives that allowed the consultants to make real-time decisions in one to two days and reduced the overall laboratory analytical budget by 45 percent.
Between August 2005 and April 2006, more than 11,000 soil and groundwater samples were collected and analyzed. Testing parameters included explosives, polychlorinated biphenyls, TAL metals, acidity, pH, dissolved CO2, nitrate, nitrite and sulfate.
Results and Conclusions
EPA’s Triad approach is a resource that offers powerful tools to the site restoration community to accomplish seemingly large goals faster, better, and cheaper. This case study clearly reflects usage of all three legs of the Triad: 1) a fully engaged stakeholder group was involved from the project outset and a baseline CSM formed the foundation of the project kickoff; 2) a dynamic work plan was focused at resolving data gaps left after the previous 15 years of investigation and continually revising the CSM; and 3) the project team was empowered and successfully utilized real-time data—first from the shallow soil investigation contractor to determine the initial locations of deeper residuum borings, and next from deep soil and groundwater results received in real time from the on-site laboratory.
One of the key elements of the Triad approach is effective communication. This was achieved both internally with the on-site project team and externally with key project stakeholders on a weekly basis. Development of real-time, on-site 3D visualizations was the focal point of this communication. And without the real-time results of the onsite laboratory, the project to fill data gaps and complete the investigation of deep soil residuum and groundwater could not have been performed in the short duration of nine months.
Since the completion of the 2005 investigation, the Triad approach has been successfully implemented at another 220-acre site involving nitrate fertilizer releases at VOAAP. Due to interest by auto parts suppliers, the VOAAP stakeholders are working to expedite the release of additional property for industrial redevelopment.