U.S. Water News Online
MESA, Ariz. -- A defense contractor responsible for
groundwater contamination in east Mesa is seeking a permit to
continue burning ammonium nitrate and perchlorate rocket propellants
for at least another 10 years, a move that concerns environmentalists
Talley Defense Systems has been making propellant-based products
such as shoulder-launched weapons, emergency ejection seats for
airplanes and airbag components for cars at the Mesa site since 1966.
Talley has been in negotiations for nearly 20 years with the
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to procure what is known
as a "Part B" permit to continue open burning to dispose of chemicals
such as perchlorate.
Studies indicate that ammonium perchlorate may be linked to
thyroid problems in humans, particularly children and pregnant women.
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report dating back to 1980
identified the underground plume of contamination at Talley's burn
site but did not recommend additional testing or cleanup activities.
The report says environmental officials at that time believed
perchlorate contamination was present in the soil. But they declared
the site a "low priority for inspection" because of its topography
and remote location.
"Hazardous wastes may have been disposed of on site," EPA staff
member Paula Besson agreed in a handwritten comment added to the
report in 1983. "However, the fact that a cone of depression exists
in the groundwater in the area, the remoteness of the area and the
depth to groundwater (500 to 600 feet), make this a low priority for
But in the 25 years that followed the report, growth and
development encroached on the Talley site, with hundreds of east Mesa
homes now within a mile of its location.
Talley spokeswoman Sue Kobyleski said in a statement that her
company is aware of the problem and is working on a plan to clean up
the perchlorate contamination.
"We have been proactively testing our site to monitor any
environmental impacts," she said. "With ADEQ we have addressed
potential areas of concern over the past 15 years and are actively
working with ADEQ on the topic of perchlorate remediation."
Kobyleski said her company already has significantly reduced the
amount and frequency of ammonium nitrate and perchlorate burning, and
that it now ships the bulk of its chemical waste to a disposal
facility in Louisiana.
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