Officials offered an update Friday morning on contamination in and around the area of the Salina Regional Airport.
At issue is contamination, things like solvents that have seeped into the ground, left behind when the federal government vacated the former Schilling Air Force Base. Some of the contamination dates back as far as the 1940s. The military base was active from 1942 through 1965. The area is now the Salina Regional Airport.
Local public entities including the City of Salina, the Salina Airport Authority, Salina USD 305 and Kansas State Polytechnic Salina have been dealing with the situation since the mid 1990s. The issue eventually went to court as local officials tried to obtain federal funding for the cleanup. Eventually a settlement was mediated.
Local, state, and federal officials reached an agreement to start the cleanup process by beginning a comprehensive field study. As part of the agreement, the federal government will fund 90 percent of it, with local entities funding 10 percent. Tim Rogers from the Salina Airport Authority added that a key component in the agreement was that the government admitted responsibility of the contamination.
The main concern are plumes of contamination. Officials have identified 11 plumes of contamination. The plumes are underground in the soil, and in the water.
The contamination plumes consist of the solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE. TCE at the time was used as an industrial solvent and has since been classified as a human carcinogen.
The Dragun Corporation has been working on a remedial investigation since June of 2014. Some highlights of the investigation include:
- 388 soil borings
- 288 temporary monitoring wells installed
- 70 permanent monitoring wells installed
- 2,353 soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment, and air samples tested
- 15,227 feet drilled
The field work ended in mid-2016. Since then a remedial investigation and risk assessment have been completed.
Environmental Scientist Dr. Michael Sklash from Dragun said there are some “fairly high concentrations of chemicals that are fairly deep.”
The contamination is within about two miles of Salina city wells, though there is no imminent threat of the contamination getting into the city water supply.
Officials continue to monitor underground water, surface water, and air quality in the area.
By later this year a cleanup plan will be proposed. There are several solutions that could be considered, ranging from removing and relocating to reducing the concentrations of the chemicals.
Once a cleanup plan is approved, local officials will go back to court to meditate with the federal government funding for cleanup.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has established an online database on the project: