Nellis Air Force Base

Nellis Air Force Base

     The United States Air Force (USAF) maintains several active military installations in southern Nevada. Nellis Air Force Base is located on the northeastern edge of Las Vegas, Nevada and has been used for flight operations since 1929. It consists of three areas encompassing about 11,200 acres; the main base, Areas II and III, and the Small Arms Range.

     Nellis AFB conducts a multitude of activities to ensure that the USAF maintains skilled instructors, knowledge of potential adversaries, technical expertise, effective equipment, and sound tactics. Nellis provides training for composite strike forces that include every type of aircraft in the USAF inventory, along with air and ground units of the Army, Navy, and Marines.USAF F 16 Training is also provided for air units from North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and from other friendly nations.

     Past and present operations at Nellis AFB are responsible for hazardous wastes. Activities that generate waste include fuel handling, vehicle and aircraft maintenance and cleaning, fire training, and infrastructure maintenance and construction. Wastes commonly produced may include fuel (gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) and oil, greases and lubricants, solvents, paint, batteries, filters, and construction debris.

     Environmental investigations at Nellis AFB have been undertaken through the Installation Restoration Program (IRP). The first major environmental study was a 1982 program records search. A number of sites have already been investigated and closed since field investigations began in 1988. Several other sites continue to be investigated or are in active remediation. Contaminants found in soil or groundwater include chlorinated solvents (trichloroethene, tetrachloroethene, and 1,2-dichloroethane), free product gasoline and jet fuel, fuel degradation compounds (BETX - benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene), and nitrates. Conventional remediation techniques are currently being utilized at some sites such as soil vapor extraction and a pump and treat system for groundwater cleanup. Innovative methods (bioventing and biosparge systems, bioreactor system, two-phase extraction system and ozone sparging system, oxygen release compound, and monitored natural attenuation) have also been evaluated for use at other sites.

ST-27 Facility Sign Entrance to the Site ST-27 Groundwater Treatment Facility with the Nellis Air Force Base fuel tank farm in background.
ST-27 Treatment Plant Site ST-27 Groundwater Treatment Facility. Groundwater contaminated with fuel and fuel byproducts is pumped from extraction wells located near the contaminated fuel storage/transfer sites and is delivered via pipline to this plant. Treated water is then piped to the base golf course for use in irrigation.
Drill Rig Drill rig being used to investigate soil contamination at the fuel tank farm.
Augers Drilling crew uses augers to bore into the subsurface and collect soil samples.
Split Spoon Technician removes soil sample from a split spoon sampler.
Drilling Operations Site investigation team catalogs samples and prepares them for laboratory analysis.
ST-28 Site Fuel transfer facility where past operations caused jet fuel contamination of soil and groundwater.
Fuel Trucks Trucks used to transfer fuel from truck stands to aircraft on the flightline.
SVE Well Wellhead that is part of a Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) system; a remediation method which removes fuel vapors from surficial soils.
Portable SVE Unit Portable thermal oxidizer unit. Fuel vapors extracted from contaminated soils are remediated through oxidation by this equipment.

The Nellis Air Force Range

     The Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR) was established in 1940 and is the largest land-based military range in the United States. Nellis RangeNAFR occupies about 3 million acres of high Nevada desert northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. This area is comprised of the North Range (including the Tonopah Test Range), South Range, and the Indian Springs Auxiliary Air Field. Military infrastructure built on the NAFR include simulated targets and threats, roads, radar sites, navigation and communication installations, utilities, airfields and associated support buildings. About one-fourth of the site lies within the Desert National Wildlife Refuge; established in 1936 to protect the Desert Bighorn Sheep. NAFR borders the Department of Energy's Nevada Test Site and Yucca Mountain site.

     The mission of the NAFR is to provide a safe and secure environment in which air and ground- based military activities can be conducted. These activities include pilot and crew training, combat exercises, and testing of new aircraft and weapons systems. The isolated location of NAFR achieves operational security and public safety by providing a sufficient buffer zone between military operations and the public.

     Past and present operations at NAFR have produced and continue to generate hazardous wastes. Activities that generate waste include fuel handling, vehicle and aircraft maintenance and cleaning, fire training, infrastructure maintenance and construction, and detonation of munitions. Wastes commonly produced may include fuel (gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) and oil, greases and lubricants, solvents, paint, batteries, filters, target and exploded ordinance debris, and unexploded ordinance. Additionally, DOE activities at the Nevada Test Site have caused contamination of NAFR land by radioactive materials.

     All of the identified IRP sites on the NAFR have been investigated, remediated, and closed. There are several sites which are undergoing long term monitoring. Land use restrictions have been imposed by NDEP on these and other parcels. Should new sites be discovered which potentially contain hazardous materials, they will be investigated under the protocol set forth in the IRP.


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