A former missile base near Arlington is the subject of an investigation to review contamination in the groundwater underneath the property and the process to remediate it.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is conducting its second five-year review of the Offutt Air Force Base Former Atlas “D” Missile Site 2, which is located east of County Road 15 between county roads 28 and 30. The review began Sept. 30.
A legal notice published in the Oct. 25 Washington County Enterprise indicated contamination is present in shallow, intermediate and deep groundwater aquifers. The contamination consists of a solvent chemical called trichloroethene as well as its degradation products.
Trichloroethene is an industrial solvent that was used as a degreaser for metal parts. It was also used to clean kerosene-fueled rocket engines.
The remedy to address the contaminants is in situ enhanced bioremediation, which degrades the chemicals into harmless byproducts.
Components of the remedy include injecting an organic carbon source — emulsified vegetable oil — to support bacteria that degrades the contaminants, groundwater monitoring, aquifer use restrictions and a clean water supply to residents to ensure that contaminated ground water is not used for potable water purposes.
The first five-year review, which was completed in 2015, found that the selected remedy was protective of human health and the environment and was functioning as intended. No exposure to site contaminants was occurring, according to Michael Glasch, deputy director of public affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Omaha.
The second five-year review will assess if that is still the case.
The first monitoring wells were installed at the site in 1989 and the first groundwater samples were collected in 1990, Glasch said.
Subsequent investigations continued through 2010, which resulted in the installation of more than 100 monitoring wells across the site, along with extensive surface and subsurface soil sampling.
“The outcomes of these investigations were a comprehensive understanding of the nature and extent of contamination, as well as an understanding of the risk that contaminants presented to human health and the environment,” Glasch said.
Regular groundwater sampling has been ongoing since 2009 with at least one sampling occurring every year except 2018 when there was a lag in funding. A contract is in place and sampling is scheduled to continue quarterly for the foreseeable future, Glasch said.
In 2011, contaminants in the soil were remediated to concentrations that no longer pose a threat to human health or groundwater quality.
However, there remained a risk associated with the groundwater, which triggered the need for the remedy selected in 2012.
A new drinking water well was installed in 2009 to provide water on site and no contaminants were found in samples collected from that well, Glasch said.
Glasch said the USCAE will interview property owners directly impacted by the site and the contamination during the review.
“Any members of the community who would like to complete a questionnaire but do not receive one directly from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are encouraged to get in touch with us using the contact information in the public notice to request an interview,” he said.
Residents can contact the USCAE at 402-995-2417 or email email@example.com.
Glasch said additional interviews will be performed with personnel from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, members of the USCAE responsible for overseeing the remediation and contractors performing the remediation work.
Once the report is complete, it will be made available at the Arlington Public Library and Blair Public Library and Technology Center.
Constructed during the height of the Cold War, the former missile base site became operational in 1961. It was home to three concrete and steel launch pads built to deploy Atlas D missiles — the first U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile armed with an atomic warhead — meant as a last line of defense against the Soviet Union.
It was decommissioned in 1964. Advancements in rocket fuel made the Atlas liquid-fueled missile obsolete.
The base sat empty for nearly five years before brothers Gerald “Bud” and Leonard Eriksen of Craig bought the property from the federal government.
The Eriksens used the land for alfalfa. They also had one of the launch pad buildings reconditioned so they could store corn.
In 2014, Gerald Eriksen's daughter, Bobi Erisksen Witherspoon of Blair, her son, Zach Erickson, and a niece and nephew sold the property to Mardell Enterprises, which is owned by John O'Dell of Arlington.
Today, the above-ground launch pads that housed the missiles and the launch operations building remain.
Offutt Air Force Base Former Atlas 'D' Missile Site 2 questionnaire
These are the questions as they appear on a five-year review questionnaire provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
• What is your overall impression of the project?
• What effects have site operations had on the property and/or surrounding community?
• Are you aware of any community concerns regarding the site or its operation and administration?
• Are you aware of any events, incidents or activities at the site such as vandalism, trespassing or emergency responses from local authorities?
• Do you feel well informed about the site's activities and progress?
• Do you have any comments, suggestions or recommendations regarding the site's management or operation?
Residents wanting to respond to the questionnaire can email their answers to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Omaha District Public Affairs Office U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, 1616 Capitol Ave., Omaha, NE 68102.