Although a federal judge has approved a consent decree involving the cleanup at the former Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, cleanup at the site is still years away.
The judge approved the joint settlement agreement between Salina authorities and the federal government.
The approval is another step in an 18-year conflict over the cost of cleaning up contaminated groundwater and soil at a former Air Force base.
The decree essentially starts the process of making a plan for the environmental cleanup of a plume of pollution that is moving toward the city’s water wells.
The federal government will pay more than $8.4 million of the nearly $9.4 million cost to map the operation. The city of Salina will pay the remaining $936,300.
At issue is contamination, things like solvents that have seeped into the ground, left behind when the Air Force vacated the base. The area is now the Salina Airport Industrial Area.
Contamination includes both liquid and vapor.
The main concern is two large underground plumes of contamination, one in the north part of the Airport Industrial Area, and another on the south end. A large plume of the solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, is in the groundwater and soil. TCE at the time was used as an industrial solvent and has since been classified as a human carcinogen.
Officials from the City of Salina, the Salina Airport Authority, the Salina school district and Kansas State University-Salina filed a federal lawsuit in 2010.
The Salina groups were working for years to get the Defense Department to pay to clean up pollutants left behind during its 24 years of operating the former base.
Associated Press information from: The Salina Journal