Agreement marks environmental milestone for Whiteman

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Matt Summers
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
With a stroke of the pen another chapter in Whiteman's Cold War history was brought to a close Tuesday 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 Chief of the Asset Management Division of 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." 

From 1963 until the early 1990s, Whiteman'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. Kim Swartz, ACC Program Manager for Environmental Restoration, said the agreement is a win-win situation for everyone involved. 

"(The agreement) ensures we continue to protect the environment," said Swartz, who has worked on the project since the dismantling of the sites in the mid 1990s. "It also allows beneficial use of the sites."