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Lowry Air Force Base

Former Lowry Air Force Base location

The former Lowry Air Force Base is located approximately six miles southeast of downtown Denver, Colorado. It includes approximately 1,866 acres and is located within the city limits of Denver and Aurora. Lowry is currently a mixed-use community including residences, educational facilities, commercial development and recreational areas.

 

Lowry Air Force Base was an integral part of the U.S. Air Force and the City of Denver history for more than 60 years. The base was named after Denver native, U.S. Army Lieutenant Francis B. Lowry, who was killed in action during World War I. Lowry was an observer in an aircraft shot down over enemy lines near Crepion, France in September 1918.

 

The base started its training mission in 1938.  World War II caused Lowry to greatly expand facilities in order to train bomber aircrews along with a large number of other technical specialists. By 1962, the Department of Missile Training was providing the Air Force with more than 1,000 trained missile specialists per year. From 1953 to 1955, Lowry became President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Summer White House" from which he conducted affairs of state while Mamie Eisenhower, a Denver native, visited with family.

 

President Eisenhower visits Lowry Air Force Base, 1953

President Eisenhower visiting Lowry Air Force Base, 1953

Due to the close proximity of the residential area around Lowry and the increase in the number of high performance jet aircraft accidents at the base, flight operations at Lowry ceased in 1966. In 1976, the U.S. Air Force Accounting and Finance Center moved from its old location near East 40th Avenue and York Street to newly built facilities at the southwest corner of the base.

Lowry's training mission expanded in the 1980s to include aircraft armament modern avionics and space operations. In October, 1986, an undergraduate space training program was initiated at Lowry Air Force Base, providing a basic preparation for space operational assignments. Lowry hosted the first Titan I Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) site located at the bombing range east of Denver. The Titans were operational from 1962 to 1965.

 

In 1992, the site was scheduled for permanent closure under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) of 1988 and the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990. The site was formally closed on September 30, 1994.

Aerial view of former Lowry Air Force Base

Lowry Air Force Base was established in 1937 as a training facility for the Army Air Corps Technical School and was used primarily as a technical training and airfields operations facility. In many ways, the activities at Lowry Air Force Base were similar to other communities of the time. A coal-powered steam plant provided heat, gas stations fueled vehicles, municipal waste was taken to a landfill and machine parts were cleaned with solvents. Fuels and chemicals were stored and used to support the training activities, and disposal of those liquids were conducted using standard waste-handling procedures of the day. These activities were undertaken according to what were then generally accepted practices. However, some of these practices resulted in environmental issues.

Until 2002, the Air Force managed all of the cleanup work at Lowry. In 2002, the Air Force privatized the groundwater plumes (Operable Unit 5) and the Landfill Zone (Operable Unit 2) environmental cleanup efforts, turning management over to the Lowry Redevelopment Authority and its contractor, Lowry Assumption Corporation. Additional cleanup efforts were privatized in 2005.

Map showing location of Operable Unit 2

Operable Unit 2, also known as the Landfill Zone, is a 74.5 acre parcel in the south-central portion of Lowry. The site is bounded by Alameda Avenue on the south, Westerly Creek Flood Control Dam and associated wetlands to the north, AMLI Apartment Complex to the west and Westerly Creek to the east. From approximately 1948 until 1986, the landfill was used for disposal of base-related waste and associated construction debris. Waste was disposed of in discrete trenches at the site and backfilled with soil.  Debris and rubble disposed on the surface of the landfill appears to have occurred from 1981 to 1986, and between 1989 and 1992 during construction of Westerly Creek Flood Control Dam.

The Lowry Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan identified the area associated with the landfill as golf/regional open space which would be turned over to the City of Denver, with plans for passive recreation, possibly a golf course north of the landfill surrounding the wetlands. The Lowry Redevelopment Authority requested the Air Force approve expenditure to place an irrigable cap on the landfill, but the Air Force refused to fund the extra cost. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved the remedy of constructing a low permeability soil cap to keep precipitation from seeping into the landfill materials and a requirement for 30-year post-closure maintenance and gas and groundwater monitoring to ensure the cap remains protective of public health and the environment. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a State environmental covenant restricting future activities on the property in order to protect the cap. Also see the letter to the editor regarding proposed redevelopment.

 

 

As part of the maintenance plan, the landfill is inspected routinely to ensure maintenance of:

 

  • the integrity of the cap

  • surface conveyance structures

  • soil vents and probes

 

Construction of the soil cap at Operable Unit 2 began in late 2003 and was completed in March 2005.

Gas Monitoring: Methane gas is produced when organic material breaks down in an oxygen-depleted environment such as a landfill. If the concentration of methane builds up, it can be potentially explosive. When a landfill is capped, methane cannot move as easily through the cap and has the potential to accumulate. The purpose of the gas monitoring is to ensure that methane gas concentrations in the subsurface soil do not exceed the lower explosive limit (LEL) of 5% methane. Twenty seven aboveground monitoring probes, located in the western and southern portion of the Operable Unit 2 landfill, were installed to monitor methane gas. The soil gas probes were sampled monthly in the first two years of post-closure monitoring and quarterly after that.

 

Groundwater Monitoring: The purpose of the groundwater sampling is to monitor water quality and to detect any potential contamination originating from Operable Unit 2. The monitoring network includes 10 groundwater monitoring wells and three sample locations along Westerly Creek. Groundwater and surface water samples are collected in accordance with a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Solid Waste Unit-approved schedule, and analyzed for metals, volatile organic carbons (VOCs) and radionuclides (gross alpha and gross beta).

 

Radiological Investigation: Several studies have been performed at Operable Unit 2 to evaluate the potential for radionuclide contamination at the landfill site, and all concluded that the radionuclides detected in the landfill zone are naturally-occurring:

 

  • Installation Restoration Program (IRP) Records Search (1983)

  • Installation Restoration Program Phase II (1987)

  • Remedial Investigation (1990)

  • Supplemental Remedial Investigation (1995)

  • Focused Feasibility Study (1996)

  • Operable Unit 5 Remedial Investigation (2001)

  • RCRA Facility Assessment (2005)

  • Long-Term Monitoring for Radiological Parameters (2006)

 

The Air Force conducted four quarters of sampling to determine if elevated historical levels of Gross Alpha and Gross Beta measured in the area of the landfill were naturally-occurring or man-made. In response to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment comments on Air Force findings, Lowry Assumption, LLC conducted two additional rounds of expanded sampling and analysis for radionuclides at the site, and hired Dr. Donald Langmuir, a professor from the Colorado School of Mines, to re-evaluate all six quarters of data. The evaluation report was submitted to the Department in June 2008. The Department requested additional information, which was provided to the Department in July 2008. After reviewing the additional data, the Department, in a July 21, 2008 letter to the US Air Force, concurred that radionuclides at Operable Unit 2 are naturally-occurring.

 

  
Proposed Changes to Lowry Landfill Zone/OU2  
 

An Intergovernmental Agreement dated August 1, 1994 by and between the City and County of Denver and the City of Aurora established the Lowry Economic Redevelopment Authority, also known as the Lowry Redevelopment Authority. The Lowry Redevelopment Authority is responsible for developing and coordinating all reuse plans and development strategies to promote economic redevelopment at the former Lowry Air Force Base.

 

The environmental investigations, which must be completed prior to any property transfer, must be conducted following the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) process. The Air Force is required to assess, determine and document if properties where release or disposal of hazardous substances or petroleum products has occurred are suitable for transfer by deed. This assessment and determination will be based on an Environmental Baseline Survey and any subsequent investigations.

 

FOST - The determination will be documented in a Finding of Suitability to Transfer (FOST) if the property is determined to be suitable for the intended use proposed by the Lowry Redevelopment Authority. The Air Force has given both the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Region 8 EPA an opportunity to comment on all of the Findings of Suitability to Transfer for the former Lowry Air Force Base.

 

FOSET - Later amendments to CERCLA allowed properties to be transferred before all necessary environmental remedial action has been taken, in certain limited cases. In Colorado, an Executive Order (D 013 98) was signed June 18, 1998 which established evaluation guidelines and review procedures for the request of a deferral of the CERCLA requirement. This document is known as the Finding of Suitability for Early Transfer (FOSET).

 

Prior to privatization of the cleanup in 2002, the Air Force was the lead agency at the former Lowry Air Force Base and the Base Realignment and Closure Act Cleanup Team consisted of the Air Force, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the EPA. The Base Realignment and Closure Act Cleanup Team reviewed all of the environmental investigation reports and discussed the need for further work.

 

Since privatization in 2002, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has regulatory authority over the environmental cleanup activities at Lowry Air Force Base through a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Consent Agreement signed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Lowry Redevelopment Authority and Lowry Assumption, LLC. The Consent Agreement and the First Amendment to the Consent Agreement are meant to ensure compliance with State laws and regulations. Currently, the Lowry Cleanup Team, which consists of the Lowry Assumption, LLC, the Air Force, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, U.S. EPA, the City and County of Denver and the City of Aurora meet routinely to discuss the ongoing environmental investigations and cleanup.

 

Some of these files are quite large and may be difficult to download from the web. 
 
If you would like to receive the Second Five Year Review in another format, please contact Jeannine Natterman at jeannine.natterman@state.co.us .
  
 
 
 
 
Figures:
 
 
 
Plate 1 pdf file    (File size = 3.7meg)
 
 
 
 
The reports are very large electronic files, and not included here.  Please contact Jeannine Natterman at jeannine.natterman@state.co.us to request a copy of the Inspection Reports in another format.
 
 
Appendix F pdf file    (File size = 2.5 meg)
 
  
  

No Further Action (NFA) Sites

Since privatization in 2002, investigation and remediation have been completed at many of the environmental sites identified by the Air Force. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved No Further Action on the following sites:

 

  • Fire Training Zone Soil (Approved May 5, 2006)

  • Outdoor Firing Range Soil (Approved  June 21, 2006)

  • Building 667 (Approved September 7, 2006)

  • Building 777 (Approved November 1, 2006)

  • Powerhouse Diesel Spill (Approved October 10, 2006)

  • Buildings 546 and 568 (Approved May 11, 2007)

  • Building 1496a (Approved May 11, 2007)

  • Yosemite Street Gate Plume (Approved May 11, 2007)

  • Building 606 (Approved February 1, 2008)

  • Buildings 349, 303(345), 354, 359, 361, 383, 401, 416, 850, 901, 903, 905, 959, 999 and 1499 (Approved February 13, 2008)

  • Building 1002e Dayton Street Septic Tank (Approved April 30, 2008)

  • Building 753 (Approved October 23, 2009 pdf file)

 

For additional information:  Lowry No Further Action Sites

 

On-going Investigation and Cleanup

Landfill Zone (Operable Unit 2)This 74.5 acre parcel is in the south-central portion of Lowry. It is bounded by Alameda Avenue on the south, Westerly Creek Flood Control Dam to the north, the AMLI Apartment Complex to the west and Westerly Creek to the east.

 

 

Former HEAT Campus: Buildings located on the Colorado Community College System site, formerly the HEAT Campus (in Aurora), have been demolished. Asbestos abatement was completed prior to demolition.

 

Sitewide Groundwater (Operable Unit [OU] 5):  

 

Building 898:

 

Northwest Neighborhood:

 

General Environmental Oversight and the Soil Management Program: In addition to monitoring and remediation work at Lowry, Lowry Assumption, LLC's scope includes environmental oversight. The environmental oversight program is in place to address any unknown conditions encountered during the redevelopment process. As part of the oversight program, all builders and construction crews must notify Lowry Assumption, LLC before beginning any activities that will disturb soil. Lowry Assumption Corporation has provided more than 34,000 hours of oversight and the program has been very successful. Through the process, asbestos was identified and removed in several locations, including near the former heating plant in the Northwest Neighborhood, an abandoned gas line, a former debris disposal area and a former steam line. In addition, diesel fuel was identified in the soil in the vicinity of a former maintenance yard. The soil was removed and a No Further Action granted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. All of these have been small removal projects and were addressed quickly to minimize any impacts. The guidelines for environmental oversight are described in detail in the Soil Management Plan that can be found in the Administrative Record.

 

Environmental documents are available for public review during regular business hours at:

 

Lowry Assumption, LLC
7290 East 1st Avenue, Denver, CO  80230
303-972-6633

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

4300 Cherry Creek Drive South

Denver, CO  80246-1530

 

Lee Pivonka

State Project Manager

303-692-3453

lee.pivonka@state.co.us

 

Jeannine Natterman

State Public Involvement Coordinator

303-692-3303

Jeannine.Natterman@state.co.us

 

Lowry Assumption, LLC

7290 East 1st Avenue, Denver, CO  80230

303-972-6633

 

John Yerton, Project Manager

Lowry Assumption, LLC

303-972-6633

jyerton@irgco.com