U.S. Water News Online
WAMEGO, Kan. -- Twenty-one private wells near a former
missile site have been found to contain high levels of a toxic
solvent used by the military to clean engines, the Kansas Department
of Health and Environment says.
KDHE identified 67 water wells east of the former Atlas-E missile
site. At 21 of the wells, tests showed the water contained levels of
trichloroethylene, or TCE, that exceeded Environmental Protection
TCE, a possible carcinogen, has been linked to liver damage and
can cause vomiting and abdominal pain, according to the EPA's Web
Officials have told residents they are developing plans for
Meanwhile, bottled water is being delivered to homes where
groundwater contained high levels of TCE. The Army Corps of Engineers
is analyzing ways to provide a permanent water source, officials
One option would be to hook the homes to rural water district
pipelines. The corps would pay to connect the homes, but property
owners would then be responsible for their monthly bills.
``This is usually the practice followed by the federal
government,'' said Dan Gravatt, KDHE unit chief for the EPA fund that
pays for such transactions.
Saqiv Khan, Corps project manager, said officials hope to schedule
a public meeting within the next month to answer residents'
questions, including what health problems they could face.
``We're trying to locate an expert on health issues,'' Khan said.
Completed in 1961, the 28-acre Wamego installation is one of nine
Atlas-E intercontinental ballistic missile sites operated until 1965
by the 548th Strategic Missile Squadron headquartered at the former
Forbes Air Force Base in Topeka.
KDHE has tested groundwater at eight of the nine sites. All have
shown TCE contamination, but the Wamego site is the first where the
contamination spread past the missile base property.
KDHE was able to conduct tests at the Wamego site after
Sacramento, Calif., businessman Chris Malone bought it for $140,000
at a Pottawatomie County sheriff's auction in August. The previous
owner, Gordon Todd Skinner, had refused to allow officials on the
The former missile site was auctioned to help pay for more than
$700,000 in judgments against the property.
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