Cleanup of former Salina Air Force base ahead of schedule

Courtesy: Google Earth

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Progress on a plan to clean up contamination at a former Air Force base is well ahead of schedule, a consulting firm told Salina aviation officials last week.

Michigan-based Dragun Corp. said in a conference call with the Salina Airport Authority on Wednesday that cleanup at the former Schilling Air Force Base could begin as soon as 2018. That’s contrary to a warning the community received in 2007 that it could take decades.

The base operated from 1942 to 1965, when the based closed and the land and buildings were given to the community, the Salina Journal (bit.ly/1pNzr2m) reported. Afterward, the municipal airport moved from east Salina to the former base, which has a primary runway longer than 2 miles.

After contamination issues surfaced in the mid-1990s, city leaders approached the U.S. Department of Defense about who was responsible for cleaning up the contamination.

The Salina entities that hired Dragun, including the city, learned that pollution, primarily the solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, is in the soil and groundwater, moving toward city water wells. TCE is a carcinogen that was used as a degreaser to wash aircraft and weapons at the base.

Negotiations with the Defense Department began in 2007. In 2011, a year after the public entities sued the government, the parties both acknowledged the military contamination.

In December 2012, the federal government agreed to fund Dragun’s re-investigation of the site with more than $8.4 million, or 90 percent of the cost. The city of Salina provided the remaining 10 percent, $936,300, and there’s still more than $1 million in contingency funds, said Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina Airport Authority.

Dragun located 11 plumes of contamination containing varying levels of pollution. The plume closest to the city’s water supply was not as close as originally believed, nor is it advancing as quickly, investigators found. Once the initial investigation is done, a feasibility study will be conducted, on which the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will offer comment. Dragun then will submit a proposed remediation plan, including a cost estimate.

KDHE will then issue a corrective-action decision, which Dragun’s project manager, Matt Schroeder, believes will be complete by the middle of 2017.

That decision will go to U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Missouri, to determine the final allocation of corrective action decision cost.

 

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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