Midway Atoll Environmental and Planning Services

GeoEngineers helped the US Fish and Wildlife Service transform Midway Atoll military base into a wildlife refuge.

Midway Atoll is a US territory located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,100 miles from O’ahu. The remote atoll consists of several islets, the largest of which was home to the Midway Naval Air Station. Midway is best known as the site of a major battle that changed the course of World War II.

Midway Atoll was decreed a National Wildlife Refuge in 1988. The air station’s closure in 1993 marked the start of Midway’s ‘bullets to birds’ transition under the direction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). GeoEngineers’ history of service to the FWS at the Midway Atoll National Refuge dates back to 2002. One of the largest projects began in 2003, when the FWS contracted GeoEngineers to respond to and remediate a large jet fuel spill that threatened sensitive nesting areas and shoreline habitat. Since then, GeoEngineers has provided a wide range of environmental, planning and assessment activities to assist in transforming the base to a fully functioning wildlife refuge.


Infrastructure Maintenance and Operational Support

  • GeoEngineers was awarded a contract with FWS to keep the refuge’s infrastructure operational while the agency evaluated long-term operating options. GeoEngineers provided municipal-type services that included operating the power and water distribution systems, maintaining and operating fuel distribution and port facilities, providing operational staff and inventorying equipment and facilities.

Midway Spill Response and Remediation

  • A fuel valve failed during routine operations at Midway Atoll in 2003, resulting in the loss of 100,000 gallons of JP5 fuel. GeoEngineers immediately mobilized a team of 20 that quickly stopped the lateral fuel migration at the spill site and recovered 30,000 gallons of fuel during the initial, month-long emergency phase. GeoEngineers also performed a site characterization of the spill site and implemented a product recovery system that Refuge personnel could maintain.
  • GeoEngineers later evaluated post-spill risks to humans and the Refuge environment and developed risk-based clean-up goals for contaminants associated with the release and procedures for future spill prevention.

Hazardous Waste Removal Services

  • GeoEngineers served as the on-site coordinator to characterize, classify and segregate the various types of waste present on Midway. GeoEngineers supervised the packaging, labeling, manifesting and loading of 75,000 pounds of containerized hazardous waste onto a large ocean barge that transported it to the mainland for appropriate disposal.

Infrastructure Evaluation

  • GeoEngineers’ staff conducted a detailed engineering and architectural evaluation of the former defense facilities at the Refuge. The team identified failing or unmanageable existing systems and recommended replacing them with reliable, sustainable alternatives that fit the site’s current use and minimized the need for external support services.
  • Facilities evaluated included an airstrip, roadways, dwellings and industrial buildings, utility systems, a 4-million-gallon fuel farm, electrical transmission lines, water treatment and septic systems and other infrastructure elements. The evaluation resulted in a Right-Sizing Plan for infrastructure decommissioning and replacement that was finalized in close coordination with FWS and other stakeholders.

Lead-Based Paint Sampling

  • Albatross chicks born on the reserve exhibited symptoms of lead toxicity, likely as a result of ingesting lead-based paint chips that had fallen from the old buildings and structures on the island. A GeoEngineers team collected and analyzed hundreds of soil samples to assess lead levels across the Refuge. This project determined the extent of the lead contamination, developed removal alternatives and estimated cleanup costs. The team’s findings were intended to guide subsequent phases of the project, including the abatement of lead from existing structures and cleanup of the contaminated soil.


Through these and other projects at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, GeoEngineers has been responsive to the needs of the FWS and joined in its commitment to restoring and preserving this national treasure for future generations.

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