Army hits new milestone in Sunflower Ammunition Plant cleanup efforts in De Soto

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DE SOTO, Kan. — The Army is one step closer to completely removing dangerous chemicals from the soil of the Sunflower Ammunition Plant.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued No Further Corrective Action Planned (NFCAP) for soils, sludge, sediment, and site-specific contaminants in groundwater for two sections of the property.

Randy Carlson, Section Chief for the Remedial Section of Environmental Mediation for KDHE, said NFCAP means there is no additional work that needs to be done at that specific site, because the hazardous material has been removed. 

“These are the first two sites that we’ve, that the army has gone through all the process of evaluating the sites,” Carlson said. “They’ve excavated a lot of material. At one site it was the drying beds for the main sewage treatment plant for the facility. They dug those all up and hauled it off to a landfill.”

The Army has also cleared hazards from roughly 15 acres of lagoon space. From 2008-2011, ash lagoons in the northeast portion of the property were drained and 120,000 tons of sludge were taken to the Johnson County landfill.

Asbestos piping and concrete troughs were also removed and taken to the landfill. Carlson said post-removal tests showed there were no remaining contaminants of concern. 

The plant closed in the 1990s after being used to manufacture military grade propellants for roughly 50 years. 

“Different munitions production areas were separated from each other in case there was an accident. You wouldn’t want to have a large explosion that would affect different areas of the plant. There’s a lot of space between different areas. It’s 9,000 acres, but then there are just little sections that were utilized.”

Carlson said there are six sites ready to have a decision document drafted and made available for a public comment period. He said a public comment period is required by the EPA to inform people of cleanup progress at the site and take feedback on the project as a whole.

“There’s another 27 sites that they still need to do an investigation to determine if they need to be cleaned up,” Carlson said. 

The Army is expected to wrap up cleaning efforts for the entire property by 2028.

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