Photo by Doug McMurdo.
KINGMAN – The Dross Site cleanup at the airport is now headed into its first phase as the city of Kingman and the Kingman Airport Authority were successful in suing the federal government.
“The current status right now on the Dross Site litigation is we reached a partial consent decree, and that partial consent decree is with the city of Kingman, the Kingman Airport Authority – because they sued as well – and the Department of Justice, which represents the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Carl Cooper, city attorney.
“The consent decree is the first step in getting it cleaned up. The feds are now providing $400,000 for the investigative phase,” said Cooper. A final consent decree is expected after the first phase, said Cooper.
Haley & Aldrich, a consulting company specializing in underground engineering, environmental science and management consulting, headquartered in Boston, will survey the site, determine boundaries, figure how much is there and the most efficient way to clean it up.
There were 5,500 out-of-service aircraft that were smelted for their aluminum after World War II at the Kingman Army Air Field, which served as a bomber and gunnery range during the war.
That process left a significant amount of contaminated waste, which was then buried, and when water seeped into the waste, heaving and gas outpouring caused undulations up to four feet high.
Dross, a byproduct of smelted aluminum, contaminated at least 15 acres at the southern end of the airport that later became part of the tarmac.
“The dross area was the first major issue that anyone here brought up to me,” said Mayor Richard Anderson.
Damage by dross
He said Aero-Flite, the aerial firefighting company, was experiencing damage to their planes and helicopters due to the undulations.
“That directly was why they left,” said Anderson. Another company, Composite Solutions, also had problems with aircraft running over the bumps.
“My concern in this whole debacle that been going on is get rid of that damn dross. We sued the government, we won. It’s taken quite a while to go through the process,” said Anderson.
“The plan is, what we have tentatively agreed to, is (the contaminated ground) will be picked up and taken out. It will be completely removed. It’s expected that will cost between $25 to $30 million,” said Cooper.
“If everything goes the way we’d really love it to go, the investigation phase will be done this spring, but I’m not going to hold my breath, because we’re dealing with the feds,” said Cooper.
“If everything goes smoothly, the whole process of the cleanup could be done in a year,” but Cooper said that is the optimum. All kinds of potential problems could arise.
Important for community
“I think the community doesn’t recognize how much of an issue this is for us, and the fact that we’ve managed to work with the Airport Authority and with the (city) council to get this on board,” said Cooper.
He said if the litigation turned against the city, it would be looking at a very large bill it doesn’t have the money have for.
“The city, ultimately, as the landowner, is going to be responsible, and we would have to clean it up,” said Cooper.
“It’s an important litigation for the community. I want to get this taken care of because it is a hazard, and it needs to be cleaned up. It’s unfortunate that we had to sue to get there.
“This is something (the government) should have stepped up and taken care of – which they did the first go-around – but their first remediation failed,” said Cooper.
The government thought the cap they placed over the contaminated area would work in 2010, but it didn’t, said Cooper.
Anderson called the initial phase critical and said, “We want to work together to get this finally resolved. We’re hoping this is the only (contaminated area) we’ll find, but we don’t know.”
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the work.