Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:

HOMESTEAD AIR FORCE BASE
HOMESTEAD AIR FORCE BASE, FL

Cleanup Activities

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Background

 

Homestead Air Force Base (HAFB) [now known as Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB)] is located in southeastern Miami-Dade County, near the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.  HAFB is located along U.S. Highway 1, approximately 25 miles south of Miami, 5 miles east of Homestead, and 2 miles west of Biscayne Bay.

 EPA placed HAFB on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) on August 30, 1990.  Pursuant to Section 120 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the U.S. Air Force (USAF), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) entered into a Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA) effective March 1, 1990.   The FFA provides the procedural framework for the investigation and, if necessary, the remediation of the operable units (OUs) at Homestead AFB.  Homestead Air Force Base originally encompassed 2,938 acres.  In 1992, Hurricane Andrew severely damaged 97 percent of the facilities at HAFB.  The 1993 Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended the realignment of HAFB as an Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) installation, utilizing approximately one-third of the Base property as Homestead ARB.  Approximately 70 percent of the Base was declared excess to the needs of the USAF and was transferred, leased, or sold.  In 1994 part of the installation (i.e., 852 acres) transitioned from an active duty base to an Air Reserve Station (ARS) under the management of the AFRC. The Base was formally closed as HAFB on September 30, 1994, and the portion of the facility not currently used by AFRC was turned over to a mixture of mostly government agencies (e.g., U.S. Job Corps, Miami-Dade County) and a few private parties.  In 2003, Homestead ARS was officially realigned as an Air Reserve Base (ARB) that is comprised of 1,943 acres, which includes the runway and main taxiways. This retained property, referred to as the cantonment area, comprises the current Homestead ARB.  HARB currently supports the 482nd Fighter Wing and the 125th Fighter Wing, Detachment 1 of the Florida Air National Guard.  HARB also supports the Miami Aviation Branch of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The primary mission of HARB is to recruit, organize, and train reservists to be prepared for active duty in time of war or national emergency and to maintain national security.  HARB serves as a staging area for aircraft and troops to respond to political and/or military unrest in the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as a warm-weather training site for other units and as an intermediate staging and aviation support area for Caribbean operations of different U.S. government agencies. The area surrounding HARB is largely agricultural but is rapidly being rezoned so that these areas can be developed and utilized for residential and commercial purposes.  Farther to the east, south, and southeast are vacant parcels of land. These vacant parcels are either protected (due to easements) or unprotected (private ownership and could be developed). There are a few commercial plots to the north and northwest of the installation; some residential areas to the south of the installation; and residential developments to the west, north, and northwest of the installation.   Areas to the southwest of the installation are being developed for residential and commercial land uses according to Miami-Dade County Planning and Zoning. 

 Homestead ARB has generated a variety of wastes related to its various missions: the operation and maintenance of aircraft and ground support equipment and the installation’s facility maintenance activities throughout its years of operation to include waste paints, paint thinners, pesticides, solvents, waste oils, waste gasoline, and hydraulic fluids. Prior to the establishment of hazardous waste management programs and programs to recycle waste oil, most of the hazardous wastes were reportedly disposed on site.

Remedial activities are currently being conducted at the former Homestead ARB, in accordance with CERCLA.  A total of 31 operable units (OUs) were evaluated between the cantonment area and the BRAC area. The final Record of Decision (ROD) for HARB was signed in 2006 and HARB achieved construction completion that same year.  A few years ago, the Secretary of the Air Force instructed all Air Force installations nationwide to reevaluate all OUs with other than a no action disposition to determine what level of effort would be required to achieve an unlimited use/unrestricted exposure disposition.  Air Force contractors are currently evaluating 19 OUs from the cantonment and BRAC areas of the installation. The Air Force, EPA and FDEP are currently involved in the scoping and investigation of the 19 OUs.  

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What Is Being Done to Clean Up the Site?

 

The Air Force began cleanup actions at the site in the early 1990s. The Air Force leads the investigation and cleanup of the site. EPA and FDEP provides oversight.

The Air Force focused mostly on digging up contaminated soil and underlying limestone rock and replacing it with clean soil. The Air Force has completed all planned environmental investigation and cleanup actions, and continues to monitor groundwater in order to implement land use controls. The Air Force will continue to monitor groundwater until it meets federal and state groundwater standards.

The Air Force completed the site’s first Five-Year Review in December 2004 to address 13 OUs and an Area of Concern. The review found that cleanup actions protect people from remaining site contamination. The Air Force Reserve is responsible for conducting a Five-Year Review for the cantonment area. The Air Force Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program is responsible for conducting a Five-Year Review for properties transferred or leased by the Air Force. A second Five-Year Review was completed by the Air Force Reserve and BRAC program in June 2012 and September 2011, respectively. The second review also found that cleanup actions continue to protect people from remaining site contamination.

As required by the 2006 cleanup plan for OU-11 (Outfall Canal or Military Canal), the Air Force provided Miami-Dade County with $800,000 to help fund the construction of a manmade wetland at the lower end of the Outfall Canal. The parties constructed the wetland as a pilot project near the Biscayne Bay outfall. Large amounts of fresh water are toxic to saltwater habitats. The parties expect that the wetland will help fresh water spread over a large land area and allow the water to trickle into Biscayne National Park. Another option would be for the parties to inject fresh water into the park on a regular basis. Information gained from this ongoing pilot test will inform state efforts to restore other canals across Florida into manmade wetlands.

 

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What Is the Current Site Status?

 

As part of the cleanup strategy for the site, the Air Force, in cooperation with EPA and the State of Florida, identified 31 OUs for potential cleanup. These OUs refer to distinct areas of the site. OU-1, for example, refers to Fire Protection Training Area No. 2.

The Air Force and EPA have issued a series of cleanup plans to address contamination across all 31 OUs. One of the final cleanup plans issued was for OU-15, the Former Hazardous Waste Storage Building (Building 153). Cleanup activities selected in the cleanup plan included using land use controls for both soil and groundwater and conducting a groundwater monitoring program.

The Air Force will continue ground water monitoring until site ground water meets federal and state ground water standards. The Air Force is continuing to monitor land use controls in place for those areas of the site that can support industrial land uses only. The Air Force is investigating two munitions areas at the site.

 

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EPA’s Involvement at the Site

 

The site is located in southern Miami-Dade County, Florida, about 25 miles southwest of Miami. The site is also seven miles northeast of Homestead, two miles west of Biscayne National Park and five miles east of Everglades National Park. The site covers around 2,916 acres. Agricultural lands and residential and commercial areas surround the site.

Over time, developers are converting nearby agricultural areas into residential and commercial developments. The federal government officially activated Homestead Army Air Field, which came before Homestead AFB, in 1942. A severe hurricane caused much damage to the airfield in 1945. The U.S. military placed the facility on inactive status later that year. The military then transferred the property to the Dade County Port Authority. Crop dusters used the runways. A few small industrial and commercial operations used the facility’s buildings.
 
In 1953, the federal government acquired the installation and some surrounding property. The government built a Strategic Air Command base. In 1955, the federal government reactivated Homestead AFB. The site then served as the home for a range of military aircraft through the early 1990s. In 1990, EPA listed the site on the NPL.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew almost destroyed Homestead AFB. In 1994, as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act, the federal government changed 852 acres of Homestead AFB from an active duty base to an Air Reserve Station under management of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command. In 2003, the federal government officially realigned Homestead Air Reserve Station as an Air Reserve Base. The base’s 1,943 acres include the runway and main taxiways. This retained property, referred to as the cantonment area, is the current location of the Homestead Air Reserve Base.

The federal government also transferred small parcels to the Florida Air National Guard, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps Training Center and several other organizations. The federal government transferred the rest of the former Homestead AFB to Miami-Dade County for redevelopment. The county currently uses a part of the transferred property for storage. The county’s fire department uses another portion of the property for training purposes.

 

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Sampling and Monitoring

The Air Force will continue ground water monitoring until site ground water meets federal and state ground water standards.

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Enforcement Information

For many years, EPA has been working with federal and state partners to clean up the site. In 1991, EPA, the State of Florida and the Air Force signed a Federal Facilities Agreement (FFA) for the site. The FFA helps make sure the parties will fully investigate environmental impacts associated with past and present activities at the installation. It also helps make sure the parties complete appropriate cleanup actions.

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