Judge approves consent decree for Salina base

SALINA, Kansas (AP) — Although a federal judge has approved a consent decree between Salina public entities and the federal government, the cleanup at the former Schilling Air Force Base in Salina is still years away.

The joint agreement is one step in the 18-year dispute over cleanup of contaminated groundwater and soil at the former base. The agreement essentially begins the process of making a plan for cleaning up pollution that’s moving toward the city’s wells, The Salina Journal reported Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the federal government will pay more than $8.4 million of the nearly $9.4 million cost to map the operation, while the city of Salina will pay the remaining $936,300.

The contamination won’t be gone anytime soon, said Tim Rogers, Salina Airport Authority executive director.

“There was a sense of high fives, and then ‘Oh my gosh, we have a lot of work to do,’ ” Rogers told the airport authority board Wednesday.

Schilling Air Force base closed in 1965 and eventually became city property and home to the Salina airport.

Salina officials sued in 2010 to recover the cost of cleaning up the leftover pollution, which includes TCE, or trichloroethylene, a known carcinogen.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will oversee the cleanup-mapping plan, which could take up to five years. Rogers, though, predicted it would be completed within three years.

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