Located just west of Cheyenne, F.E. Warren Air Force Base is a 6000+ acre facility that used to serve as an intercontinental ballistic missile operations base, among other uses. Past operations and disposal practices contaminated soil and groundwater with hazardous chemicals on base and at some adjacent private residences.
Residents on or near this Wyoming base face health issues from decades of toxic groundwater contamination and soil vapor plumes due to what is becoming an all too common carcinogen and chemical nuisance found on military bases – TCE.
According to the EPA, cleanup is complete at many areas. Here are some of the stated impacts:
The site consists of 10 areas, referred to by EPA as operable units (OUs). These OUs include three landfills, two fire-protection training areas, six spill sites, base-wide groundwater, a firing range, a battery-acid disposal site and an open burning/open detonation area. Long-term remedies at the site include monitored natural attenuation (MNA) and in-place chemical treatment of groundwater, landfill covers, landfill gas venting systems, removal of localized waste areas and institutional controls. The Air Force previously used a pump-and-treat system to clean up groundwater in some areas; the system was replaced with MNA. In 2013, the Air Force began cleanup of the firing range (OU7). Site cleanup has also included removal actions or interim response measures, or short-term cleanups, to address immediate threats to human health and the environment. Between 1984 and 1989, the Air Force removed contaminated soil areas, a grease tank and a leaking storage tank in OU1. In 1999, the Air Force installed a permeable reactive barrier (PRB) wall to treat contaminated groundwater at OU2. Cleanup of OU2 also included soil excavation and soil vapor extraction. In 1996, the Air Force extended a water line to residents of Nob Hill. In 1999, the Air Force removed waste from Landfill 3 and placed it in an approved waste co-location area (WCA).
TCE is a systemic problem in the military. But, awareness of TCE contamination and its impacts was not always a priority. According to an AP report from 2009:
Long before environmentalism went mainstream, the men who maintained the missiles didn’t think twice about dumping used TCE into the silos’ blast pits.
Sound familiar? Residents of nearby towns, and the city of Cheyenne, remain concerned about the potential for increasing levels of TCE in their water supplies as a result of the continuously migrating TCE soil vapor plume below ground. Active testing continues.
As for the future, and spending, remediation could run as high as $500 million or more over the long haul. For example, at the former Atlas Missile Site 4:
The Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on a more-than-100-year effort to remove TCE from the groundwater after it seeped into the ground while being used to clean the missile launcher in the 1960s. – Military Times
Risks and pathways addressed by the cleanup include health risks from people ingesting or touching contaminants in soil and groundwater. A slow-moving contaminated groundwater plume still exists.
Depending on the site and its underground geology, the contamination has spread to about the size of a football field or, like at Missile Site 4, a massive 12-mile-by-3-mile plume.
The F.E. Warren Air Force Base remains an active military facility.
NPL Status: Final
Street Address: I-25 AND RANDALL AVENUE, CHEYENNE, WY 82005
Congressional District: 00
EPA ID: WY5571924179
Contaminant Information Site Contacts:
- Remedial Project Manager (RPM): Robert Stites (303) 312-6658
- Additional Site Contact(s): Wyoming DEQ Jane Francis 307-777-7092
- Warren AFB Remedial Project Manager: John Wright 307-773-4147
- EPA Superfund Site/Files on Warren
- CDC Public Health Assessments Page
- Military Times: Progress Slow on Cleaning Up Former FE Warren Nuke Sites
- NBC: Pollution a Legacy at Old Missile Sites