Air Force Bases Use SABER to Treat PFOS PFOA Contamination

Neil Tuck at Gordian

By Neil Tuck

In times of war and emergency, our nation’s military troops and first responders risk their lives willingly to save others and protect our shared values. While most of the dangers are obvious, there are threats that have only recently been identified—hazardous chemicals in the soil and water supply. On May 19, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a Lifetime Health Advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for a combined concentration of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).

PFOS and PFOA are synthetic fluorinated organic compounds used in many industrial and consumer products, such as nonstick cookware, stain-resistant fabric and carpet and some food packaging. Commonly grouped with other synthetic fluorinated chemicals using the umbrella term perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), PFOS and PFOA are the only two compounds with established lifetime health advisories for drinking water. These chemicals have been linked to adverse health effects, such as cancers, developmental and reproductive toxicity and thyroid disease, among others. In addition to the EPA’s action plan, some state and local environmental agencies have established health advisories for PFOS and PFOA.

Taking Action

The Air Force is leading the way in responding to this contaminate because PFOS and PFOA are commonly found in fire retardants used in conjunction with jet fuel fires. Virtually every United States Air Force (USAF) facility has airplanes and a runway. Spray foam fire retardants or aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) containing PFOS/PFOA were so common in the last several decades that most USAF sites likely have PFOS/PFOA contaminates in the soil, even if the groundwater is deemed safe. As states tighten restrictions on how to properly handle these hazardous materials, projects where soil is disturbed will become more complex and costly. The Air Force is taking a three-step approach – identify, respond, prevent – to assess and respond to potential PFOS/PFOA contamination.

SABER Can Help

Many USAF bases are utilizing their SABER contracts to sample and test soil to identify whether these contaminants are present. Simplified Acquisition of Base Engineering Requirements (SABER) is an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracting vehicle that includes detailed task descriptions for maintenance, repair and construction work. SABER may also be referred to outside of the USAF as Job Order Contracting (JOC).

Detailed Task Descriptions contained in the Construction Task Catalog ® (CTC ) ensure accurate prices and compatibility between the detailed Scope of Work and the price proposal. Pricing a SABER project with a CTC’s procurement-worthy data guarantees price controls when PFOS/PFOA is found as an unforeseen condition. It will also ensure that typical SABER projects with a small civil component do not get thrown out due to excessive non-prepriced percentages.

Gordian recognized the critical need for developing pricing to support sampling and testing of soils to determine if they are contaminated with PFOS and PFOA at USAF Facilities. In April, the following tasks were added to a Construction Task Catalog® in support of a SABER program at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska. In addition to Sampling and Testing, Gordian has enhanced the CTC to include “Removal and Disposal of Perfluorooctanesulfonic Acid (PFOA/PFOS) Contaminated Soils.”

This new section includes:

  • On-site samplers (0002)
  • Shipping (0003)
  • Testing (0004) of the samples
  • A full level IV lab report (0005) on the samples taken
  • Excavating (0007)
  • Loading (0008)
  • Hauling (0009) the contaminated materials away from the site
  • Incinerate (0010) the contaminants from the soils so that remediated soils can be returned to the site

Earlier this month, a Purchase Order was issued in support of a Task Order that included PFOS/PFOA soil remediation due to the need to disturb soils for a typical SABER project involving civil work.

Construction Cost Catalog SABER updates

Summary

Most USAF bases probably have PFOS / PFOA contaminates in the soil and possibly in the drinking water. Utilizing a SABER program backed by Gordian’s enhanced CTC as the contractual pricing source can help remediate disturbed soils and control costs for unforeseen discovery of PFOS/PFOA.

For more information on SABER, contact Gordian.