111th ATKW hosts environmental advisory board, provides organizational briefings, base tour

  • Published
  • By Jon Dahms

The 111th Attack Wing hosted more than 50 members of the Willow Grove Air Base Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) here for the quarterly RAB meeting, a mission briefing on the Wing and its subordinate units, and a tour of the base to review progress in its environmental restoration efforts.

The Willow Grove RAB was established in 2015 and meets quarterly to address community concerns and environmental issues regarding the former Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base (NAS JRB) Willow Grove and the former Air Force Reserve Station (ARS) Willow Grove. The visitors included local residents; representatives from local, state and federal government; and civic/business leaders in the community.

“Partnerships are one of our wing's top priorities,” said Pennsylvania Air National Guard Col. Deane E. Thomey, 111th ATKW Commander and host for the meeting and tour. “This is the fourth time in just over a year that we've had either community members or local congressional leaders tour the base to see our progress in improving the quality of base drinking water along with groundwater and storm-water run-off. We take our environmental compliance responsibilities seriously and will continue to work with our community partners on this issue."

The tour included visits to various monitoring sites for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the groundwater, a new water treatment plant constructed for the base in 2017, and the new large-capacity surface water treatment system, which went into operation Aug. 17, 2021. This treatment system was constructed through a cooperative agreement with Warminster Township.

"I was not able to attend in person but speaking as a virtual attendee, the meeting seemed to go well and I was able to follow all the presentations and the Q&A sessions virtually," said Lee dePersia, Environmental Engineer for the 111th Attack Wing. "I think we will continue to do hybrid meetings with virtual and in-person options for attendance, but not on base so the public has easier access to the meetings.”

For nearly a decade, the 111th ATKW has been working closely with local communities, Navy, Air National Guard (ANG) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to address drinking water quality, and storm water run-off from Biddle Air National Guard Base, and remains committed to this combined effort.

This, the first “in-person” RAB meeting in three years due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, enabled the 111th ATKW to show RAB members firsthand progress in key areas.

“Being able to explain in-person to those who attended the tour the aspects of each location and the ability to physically point out key features that are normally described verbally was a highlight for me,” said William M. Myers, Environmental Restoration Program Manager with the Air National Guard. “The in-person experience and visual observation of the site or clean-up leaves everyone with a better understanding of the process.”

The next quarterly meeting for the Willow Grove Air Base RAB is scheduled for Mar. 16, 2023 at 6 p.m. Details on how to participate in this meeting will be released shortly.