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It might take workers until January to remove 38 underground storage tanks from the Dal Molin airfield, but that work won’t delay construction of barracks and offices for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Army officials say.

In March, the Army announced it had awarded a 245-million euro contract to two Italian firms with the goal of consolidating all six 173rd battalions in northern Italy by 2012. Currently, four of the six battalions are based in Bamberg and Schweinfurt in Germany. The other two are located in Vicenza.

Kambiz Razzaghi, director of the Transformation Construction Management Office at Caserma Ederle, said Tuesday that the relocation of the tanks and the beginning of construction are not necessarily related.

"It’s a very large base, and the tanks are in a small area," he said in a phone interview.

CMC di Ravenna and Consorzio Cooperativa Construzioni of Bologna, a joint venture of two Italian companies awarded the contract to build barracks and offices, recently began removing the tanks from the site.

Susan Wong, a TCMO senior project engineer, said some of the tanks date back to the 1950s.

She said they were likely installed by either NATO or Italian forces.

The land is owned by the Italian military and has been used by NATO forces in the past.

She said the tanks will be pressure-tested to see if they are structurally sound enough to be easily removed. Any that fail will also be removed, but in a more complicated process that follows a series of Italian procedures and regulations.

Opponents of the Army’s use of Dal Molin often cite potential damage to the city’s aquifers, which reportedly run close to the surface in the Dal Molin area.

But the U.S. says it plans to remove all the old tanks on the site and install only five similar tanks — all designed with modern safeguards to prevent leaks.

Wong said American and Italian tests of soil and groundwater in the area are continuing.

"We don’t believe there are any indications of water contamination," she said.

The old tanks range in capacity from 1,800 to 50,000 liters, according to a news release issued by U.S. Army Garrison-Vicenza. They were used to store fuel for vehicles and airplanes as well as heating oil.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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