Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | 2:46 p.m.
Two million cubic yards of contaminated soil — more than enough to cover 31 football fields 30 feet deep — are being removed from the 2,200-acre site in east Henderson where the Landwell Co. plans to build homes, offices and stores.
Crews so far have removed more than 250,000 cubic yards from the site, northeast of Lake Mead Parkway and Boulder Highway, where Landwell plans to build up to 15,000 homes, condominiums and apartments. They've cleared about 13 percent of the total.
The amount of soil being removed is about the same as the debris removed from Ground Zero in New York after the Sept. 11 attacks, interested residents were told yesterday at a public meeting to provide an update about Landwell's progress on cleaning the site.
Work began in May after 18 years of testing and planning. The project has been approved by the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, which is overseeing the work.
"It has taken us a long time to get to the point that we can get on the site and actually get to work," said Dr. Ron Sahu, director of environmental services for Basic Remediation Company, the subsidiary of Landwell that is doing the cleanup. "It's enjoyable. It's nice to see that things are coming along, that there is less contamination. That's forward progress."
The principal target of the work are the 15 former collection ponds that manufacturing plants at the nearby BMI Industrial Complex used for more than 30 years, beginning in 1942. The pools collected runoff of dangerous chemicals and metals from the plants and held them for evaporation.
Sahu said the pools represent a small portion of the 2,200 acres. Though only 15 of the more than 100 pools that were built appear to have been used, their presence requires caution along the whole site, he said.
"We can't be sure," Sahu said. "I don't have a document that shows every day from 1942, what was used and what was not, so out of an abundance of caution, we are testing all of these areas. … We still have to test to make sure that there was no incidental use and that there have been no wind-borne particles."
So far, Landwell has collected 3,147 soil samples from 1,302 sites on the land, Sahu said. The project area has been divided into 15 sub-areas and the Department of Environmental Protection has declared one 244-acre area clean. Sahu said he anticipates that two more areas, totaling 287 more acres, will be declared clean in the coming days.
The contaminated soil that crews remove each day is taken each night by 40-ton dump trucks, which leave the site on Warm Springs Road and cross Boulder Highway to access the special landfill, called a Corrective Action Management Unit, that Landwell has prepared on the northwest part of the BMI complex.
The landfill is lined with a three-layer membrane that will prevent leaking, Sahu said. As areas of the landfill become full, they will be capped with the same material and covered.
The process has moved slowly thus far, Sahu said, because it is a painstaking one. When the soil is removed from the contaminated site, it must be done so in even layers to make sure that it can properly dry out. Crews must be careful that the soil does not become too dry, so it doesn't blow around.
Air quality monitors are set up around work sites, Sahu said, to make sure that nothing escapes.
Every time a truck leaves the site, another crew makes sure that its contaminated load is secured and covered, then sprays the truck down to decontaminate it. The runoff is collected and used for dust control on contaminated portions of the site, Sahu said.
Sahu said he expects the process to take the rest of this year and possibly last into 2010. When it is done, he said, there will be several weeks of additional testing to make sure that the entire site is safe.
Jeremy Twitchell can be reached at 990-8928 or [email protected].