Contamination cleanup at old Salina air base to begin in just a matter of months


Schilling Air Force Base (Courtesy Salina Airport Authority)

SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) — A 22-year effort to clean up environmental contamination from the former Schilling Air Force Base in Salina will turn into a massive cleanup beginning this fall.

Schilling operated from 1942 to 1965. The KDHE says it is now used for the Salina Regional Airport and industrial, aviation, military, and educational facilities.

The KDHE says contaminants that have been found and exceed EPA levels include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds, and metals.

B-52 at Schilling Air Force Base (Courtesy Salina Airport Authority)

The Salina Airport Authority says officials also found groundwater contamination creeping slow to the northeast, toward city water wells. It says the wells are not in immediate danger, but the goal is to eliminate or neutralize the source of the contamination.

This week, the Salina City Commission approved a contract with Dragun Corp. to map plans to clean up contamination in, under and around the former base. Earlier this month, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment approved an amended Consent Agreement and Final Order.

Those actions clear the way for the cleanup this fall.

“Before, it was just talking about the problem and everybody was frustrated,” said Martha Tasker, Salina director of utilities.

“In some areas, it will be as simple as digging up contaminated soils and taking that away to be disposed of,” said Matt Schroeder, senior environmental engineer at Dragun Corp. “In other areas, we will heat up the soil to volatilize the contaminants.”

Salina and Schilling Air Force Base (Courtesy Salina Airport Authority)

Officials will conduct testing before and during the process to decide the best removal options. Schroeder says most of the cleanup will happen in the first five years. He says there could be decades of monitoring and spot treatment before the project is deemed complete.

“We look for some of that testing to carry on through 2050,” Tasker said. “We want to make sure that area is safe. It’s not just protecting the groundwater, it’s also protecting the air.”

They both say the cleanup crews will work around the $300 million Schwan’s expansion.

The Salina Airport Authority says cost of the cleanup is covered by a $65.9 million settlement approved by the U.S. District Court, Kansas.

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