Half-kneeling in the cold February drizzle, an environmental
scientist jiggles a length of plastic tubing rapidly up and down a narrow
monitoring well. Collecting enough water for groundwater sampling using the
jiggle tube (technically, a manual inertial lift pump) requires considerable
elbow grease. It takes several minutes of pumping before a trickle of water
begins to flow—a task that a standard-size well could easily accomplish
with a motorized pump.
Why the extra effort? Because the scientist is working at
Fort Riley, Kan., in an area designated by the state of Kansas as critical
habitat for the American bald eagle.
Eagles are winter residents at Fort Riley. Burns &
McDonnell performs groundwater monitoring near a former dry cleaning facility
on the Army post with extra care to ensure not only that, as federal and state
regulations require, the eagles are not disturbed, but that the birds also find
the most hospitable environment possible.
“We’re not sure exactly what makes the area so
attractive to the eagles, so we’re careful not to do anything to change
the habitat,” said Fort Riley threatened and endangered species biologist
Jeff Keating. “We try to maintain the integrity of the woods across the
installation so that wherever the eagles choose to land, they’ll find the
conditions they need to survive and to return to breeding grounds in tiptop
condition with the energy to lay eggs and raise their young.”
Testing at the former dry cleaning area and other operable
units are part of the CERCLA remedial investigation being conducted at Fort
Riley. Burns & McDonnell designs procedures around habitat protection
measures ranging from prohibition of trucks or heavy machinery in the stands
where eagles are known to frequent, to a timetable of when work can be performed
according to temperature, wind chill and wind speed at the site. Remediation
teams must be flexible and responsive to last-minute changes including packing
up equipment and coming back another day if eagles are sighted.
“Sampling at Fort Riley requires coordination and some
extra effort,” said Paul Hustad, head of Burns & McDonnell’s
waste consultants division.
Stringent measures to protect eagle habitats are part of an
Endangered Species Management Plan at Fort Riley, a nearly 150-year-old military
installation nestled in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas.
Thanks to the banning of DDT and conservation efforts
including the program at Fort Riley, bald eagle population in the lower 48
states has rebounded from a low of less than 500 breeding pairs in 1967 to an
estimated 5,748 pairs today. Removal of the bald eagle from the list of
threatened and endangered species has been proposed.
Extra Effort Required When Sampling