With the closure of many military bases worldwide and a closer scrutiny of practices on remaining bases, the environmental impact of the military is now an important consideration in the operation of bases. Many previously-unknown environmental problems related to chemicals are surfacing. White phosphorus, a chemical commonly used as an obscurant, is a chemical previously thought to be innocuous after use. In 1990, however, it was linked to the deaths of thousands of waterfowl at the Eagle River Flats impact area on Ft Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska, USA, and shortly after, a series of remedial investigations was initiated. This paper describes three of the remedial methods currently under investigation, namely enhanced in-situ remediation, pond draining through ditching or pumping, and dredging. These three approaches are best applied in different environments, but they can be used together or in conjunction with other strategies. Their impacts on the environment will vary as well.
Experience with these remediation strategies has proven very useful in determining the direction that the clean-up effort at Eagle River Flats (ERF) should take. Dredging, an effective means of removing contaminated sediments for off-site remediation, has been shown to be too slow and expensive at the ERF because unexploded ordnance is present. Enhanced natural remediation is effective under favourable climatological conditions in areas that experience intermittent flooding, but desaturation of the sediments is critical to its effectiveness. Pond draining by blasting a ditch effectively removes waterfowl feeding habitat, but attenuation of the contaminant is inhibited because the ditch increases flooding frequency, and the habitat alteration is permanent. Pond pumping, where feasible, has shown great potential for the desaturating of wide areas of ERF, enabling the natural attenuation mechanism to progress. Further investigation will be necessary to confirm these initial conclusions and determine the overall effectiveness of all three methodologies. Methods developed over the course of this work may be applied to other remediation projects where in-situ volatilization can occur and limited disturbance of wetlands is critical.