Schilling Air Force Base

Site Background

The former Schilling Air Force Base is a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) located in southwest Salina, Kansas. The base was originally built as the Smoky Hill Army Airfield in 1942, and was used during World War II as a processing and staging area for heavy bombardment units going overseas, including B-17 and B-29 aircraft. In 1946 the name was changed to the Smoky Hill Air Force Base, and it served during the 1950's Korean conflict as a base for the Strategic Air Command and the 310th and 40th Bombardment Wings. In the late 1950's and early 1960's, the air force base underwent significant renovations resulting in the construction of a 12-silo Atlas F intercontinental ballistic missile complex, modifications to prepare for the next generation of aerial bombers and tankers, and another name change, the Schilling Air Force Base (Schilling AFB). The base was deactivated between 1965 and 1967; it is now used for the Salina Regional Airport and industrial, aviation, military, and educational facilities.

An aerial photograph of the Smoky Hill Army Air Field in 1943.

An aerial photograph of the Smoky Hill Army Air Field in 1943.

The Salina Municipal Airport in 2012.

The Salina Municipal Airport in 2012.

The Salina Airport Authority (SAA), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have conducted numerous environmental investigations and some limited remedial actions at the Schilling AFB Site since the mid-1990's. Contaminants of concern include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds, and metals, which have been identified in soil and groundwater above their respective EPA maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) and KDHE Risk-based Standards for Kansas (RSKs). KDHE is also investigating the presence of perfluorinated chemicals (PFOS and PFOA), which are emerging contaminants. The former Schilling AFB Site has been divided into three Operable Units (OUs) based on the level of contamination and the highest potential risk to human health and the environment. OU-1 encompasses the northeastern portion of the former base, which now includes part of the Salina Regional Airport, Kansas State University-Salina, Salina TECH, various industrial and commercial businesses, and residential properties. OU-2 includes the southeastern portion of the former base and fire training area, which currently contains part of the Salina Regional Airport, Kansas National Guard Training facility, Schwans Plant, other various industrial and commercial businesses, and residential properties. OU-3 includes the western portion of the former base, runways, three former landfills, and other miscellaneous areas.

Activities between 1999 and 2012 were performed by USACE with KDHE oversight and included: removal of numerous underground storage tanks, installation of an air stripper at the Salina Vo-Tech School sump pump, vapor intrusion evaluation at select locations, a Remedial Investigation (RI) and Baseline Risk Assessment for OU-1, and long-term groundwater monitoring, At the conclusion of the USACE's RI, it was determined additional assessment was warranted in addition to completing a Feasibility Study (FS) to evaluate appropriate cleanup alternatives.

Current Investigation and Path Forward

In 2012 the Salina Public Entities (City of Salina, SAA, USD 305, and Kansas State University) negotiated a settlement with the USACE to complete the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) scope of work under the oversight of KDHE. The Final RI work plan has been submitted to KDHE for review and was approved in August 2014. The RI field activities began the week of September 1, 2014, and are near completion.

A Pilot Study was conducted in order to evaluate the effectiveness of various remedial technologies being considered in the Feasibility Study (FS). The Pilot Study was submitted to KDHE and approved in October 2017. Remedial technologies being considered for inclusion in the FS include:

  • Soil Excavation with Ex-situ Chemical Oxidation - soil is removed and treated to reduce VOC concentrations, after which the treated soil can be replaced or disposed.
  • In-situ Thermal Desorption - thermal conductive heating elements directly transfer heat to soil, causing the destruction of VOCs.
  • Soil Vapor Extraction - blowers and extraction wells induce gas flow through the subsurface and collect contaminant vapor, which is then treated aboveground.
  • Groundwater Pump-and-Treat - groundwater is pumped out of the ground, treated, and discharged into the sanitary sewer.
  • Zero Valent Iron Barrier Installation - injection of zero-valent iron into the subsurface in a configuration that treats groundwater as it passes through the reactive zone.
  • Enhanced Bioremediation - injection of nutrients and amendments into the subsurface to enhance biodegradation.

A groundwater modeling work plan was approved by KDHE in May 2016. The purpose of groundwater modeling is to better understand groundwater flow and contaminant transport, predict future transport of chemicals, and support evaluation of remediation options. The draft groundwater model report was completed in October 2017 and is currently under review by KDHE.

Community Involvement

A public meeting summarizing the work completed to date and the future activities is scheduled for November 17, 2017, at 9:00 AM, at the City-County Building, 300 W. Ash St., Salina, KS. Representatives from the Salina Public Entities, KDHE, and Dragun Corporation will present. Dragun Corporation will present on the data collected and the path forward. KDHE will provide a presentation on the remedy selection public comment involvement process.

300 W. Ash St.
Click to enlarge.

A public meeting summarizing the work completed to date was held September 25, 2015. Representatives from the Salina Public Entities, KDHE, and Dragun Corporation were present. The Salina Journal reported on the information provided during the meeting.

September 26, 2015. "Investigation of Schilling contamination continues." Salina Journal.

February 28, 2015. "Schilling contamination: some bad, some not so bad." Salina Journal.

KDHE prepared a Community Involvement Plan (CIP) to outline the Agency's community outreach program. KDHE is committed to promoting communication between the public and the Agency, and wants to make sure the community's concerns and information needs are considered as project activities progress. Ongoing input and involvement by citizens in the Salina community is essential for project success.

Additional Information

For additional information, please contact:

Site Documents

Portions of these reports may have been removed in order to make them web-ready. Complete copies are available by contacting Alex Nicosia.