Hazardous materials removed from parts of the sunflower munitions plant

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DE SOTO, Kan. – The military takes one more step towards the complete elimination of dangerous chemicals from the soil of the sunflower munitions factory.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has not issued any further planned corrective action (NFCAP) for soil, sludge, sediment, and site-specific contaminants in groundwater for two sections of the property.

Randy Carlson, section chief of the environmental mediation corrective section for KDHE, said NFCAP means there is no additional work to be done at this specific site as the hazardous materials have been removed.

“These are the first two sites that we have, that the military has gone through the entire site assessment process,” Carlson said. “They excavated a lot of material. At one site, these were the drying beds for the facility’s main wastewater treatment plant. They dug them all up and took them to a landfill. “

The military has also eliminated the dangers of approximately 15 acres of lagoon space. From 2008 to 2011, the ash lagoons in the northeastern part of the property were drained and 120,000 tonnes of sludge was sent to the Johnson County landfill.

Asbestos pipes and concrete gutters were also removed and routed to the landfill. Carlson said post-removal testing showed no contaminants of concern remained.

The factory closed in the 1990s after being used to manufacture military-grade thrusters for around 50 years.

“Different munitions production areas were separated from each other in the event of an accident. You wouldn’t want to have a big explosion that would affect different areas of the factory. There is a lot of space between the different areas. It’s 9,000 acres, but only small sections were used.

Carlson said there were six sites ready to draft a decision document and make it available for a public comment period. He said a public comment period is required by the EPA to update people on the progress of the cleanup at the site and to gather feedback on the project as a whole.

“There are still 27 sites that they have yet to investigate to determine if they need to be cleaned up,” Carlson said.

The military is expected to conclude cleanup efforts for the entire property by 2028.

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