In 1941 the United States established the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville,
Newfoundland, which was operational for 24 years. The construction and operation of the base
offered many positive benefits to the area during its existence. However, the passing of time has
brought to light the significant cost Stephenville paid environmentally.
The Americans constructed underground fuel storage tanks and pipelines. Several buildings
were constructed for the storage and handling of chemicals and hazardous products. The natural
flow of streams was diverted to allow for the construction of lengthy runways. Numerous land-fill sites were established where all sorts of environmentally disastrous wastes were casually
dumped and buried.
As a direct result of the base, there are significant environmental concerns associated with
Stephenville and the surrounding area. Recently, an environmental audit and assessment of the
area was undertaken by the NLHC (Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation), to
determine the type of cleanup required. The audit included extensive surveys and research of
abandoned fuel lines, underground storage tanks and abandoned buildings, as well as their
environmental impacts and health risks. Many people feel the audit did an excellent job on the
specific areas of concern it studied, but it did not study the dump-sites left by the Americans.
Much more work needs to be done in this area.
It has been thirty-two years since the Americans left Stephenville. Why has the clean up taken so long to get underway? Maybe it was prompted by the discovery made in Argentia of a similar
Foundation of razed building on Table Mountain, site of the Pinetree radar base