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Whiteman AFB achieves environmental milestone

by Tech. Sgt. Matt Summers
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

6/22/2007 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFPN)  -- With a stroke of a pen, another chapter in Whiteman Air Force Base's Cold War history was brought to a close June 19 in Kansas City.

Air Force, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Missouri Department of Natural Resources officials signed a Long-Term Stewardship Agreement for the Missouri Minuteman II missile sites, signifying the Air Force has satisfactorily completed required environmental stewardship actions in conjunction with the dismantling of the missile sites.

"The signing of this document today culminates 14 years of work dedicated to the protection of human health and the environment of the state of Missouri," said Robert Barrett, Air Combat Command Asset Management division chief for the Directorate of Installations and Mission Support.

"Faced with a daunting task, extremely tight timelines and global implications for failure, our teams -- working together -- fashioned a masterful solution which has worked incredibly well since it was implemented," Mr. Barrett said.

From 1963 until the early 1990s, Whiteman AFB's missile wing maintained 150 Minuteman II missile silos and 15 missile launch facilities throughout central and southwest Missouri. The sites were dismantled as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed with the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Before the dismantlement began, the Air Force entered into a Federal Facility Compliance Agreement with the EPA and a state agreement with Missouri outlining the Air Force's responsibility to monitor and take samples at the sites because of known contaminants at both the silo and launch control sites.

The decision to leave the environmental "waste" in place was based on a risk analysis performed after extensive sampling and monitoring, according to Larry Erickson, the Federal Facilities Section Chief for MDNR.

Engineering controls, such as bans on extreme soil disturbance and water well drilling, were put in place when the sites were returned to private land owners. Under the agreement the Air Force will continue to inspect all sites every two years. The MDNR will validate and evaluate the inspections and the EPA will maintain the public's awareness of contaminates left at the sites.

A majority of the sites will now be used for agricultural purposes, according to Erickson.

"We are going from missile silos to grain silos here in Missouri," he said.

The agreement is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

"(The agreement) ensures we continue to protect the environment," Kim Swartz, ACC program manager for Environmental Restoration who has worked on the project since the dismantling of the sites in the mid 1990s. 

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