The decontamination schedule at a US Air Force base in Michigan has been brought forward with reduced costs and liability, thanks to the use of paperless processes, online models and coordinated GIS systems.

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are stable chemical compounds. Their properties make them ideal for firefighting foam, but not ideal for the environment. Wood has been helping the Wurtsmith Air Force base with environmental monitoring and cleanup of PFAs since 2015. Saamih Bashir explains the project.

The Wurtsmith base is around 5,000 acres and areas of investigation identified within this are between 20 and 60 acres. Our teams take a variety of surface and subsurface samples of soil and groundwater to determine the extent of contamination and develop effective cleanup operations.

Over the past 32 months we have been successfully digitising our work scopes, creating a system that is far more efficient, easily tracked in real time and practically eliminates certain ongoing risks.

Our first step was to go paperless; all our forms are online, collected via tablets and stored in one place for easy access and set up so they can only be submitted when properly completed. On a job like this documenting everything properly is crucial and this system lets managers check that all the forms are being completed properly each day.

Secondly, we use an environmental visualisation system - Earth Volumetric Studio (EVS) - that combines the contamination data with topographical models to help us understand how the contamination is spreading, both across the surface and at depth. We’re now looking at these models to see if any trends can be pulled out based on the local geology to help predict and prevent the spread of contamination in future.

Finally we are using ArcGIS – a geographic information system – online to capture data and exchange requests with authorities. Before we drill for a subsurface sample we need to be sure we won’t hit a pipeline or cable. By tagging our applications through the GIS software we can be 100% accurate and pass on approved coordinates to the field crew and drilling contractors. All this is monitored and adjusted in real time allowing us to share data and progress with the customer, so they are always up to date.

Matt Matteson, EVS team lead, has the final word on the project:

The Wurtsmith programme has led the way in digitising our process for environmental monitoring and remediation, achieving great savings on cost and schedule for the customer and reducing risk. It has quickly become our standard for executing projects.

To find out more, contact

Read more stories from Inspired magazine here.