2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000 09:08:54 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Sunflower AAP Environmental Assessment

In December, the General Services Administration released the
Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for the
Proposed Property Disposal of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant,
Johnson County, Kansas. I have reviewed the sections pertaining to
Hazardous Substances and Other Contamination. The document as a whole
contains a great deal of useful information, but the hazardous materials
sections still suffers from the fact that the parties to the transaction
and the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment are still
engaged in confidential negotiations, so key public documents are
incomplete and thus the information is unavailable to the public. The
Environmental Assessment contains a new page on deed restrictions, but
that section remains woefully inadequate.

Based upon the Environmental Assessment, GSA finds "that the disposal of
Sunflower does not significantly affect the quality of the human
environment and does not warrant the preparation of an Environmental
Impact Statement." But that finding depends upon promised actions, not
current conditions: 

"GSA will impose deed restrictions which, pending remediation, will
limit use of, or access to, contaminated soil, groundwater and
facilities that may pose a threat to human health. The adequacy of the
environmental protections must be approved by the Kansas Department of
Health and the Environment (KDHE) as well as the Governor of Kansas.
KDHE also will oversee all cleanup activities and will determine when
(and if) deed restrictions can be lifted. Johnson County has indicated
that it will not issue any building permits unless there is a
certification by the County Environmental Department, KDHE, and EPA that
the development site is safe for construction or use."

However, the transfer of the property out of Army control, by itself,
will have an significant impact on the environment because it will
create potential exposure pathways by opening up the property to members
of the public. Large portions of the property are known to be
contaminated, enough to give the property a very high hazard ranking
score, which should qualify the property for the "Superfund" National
Priorities List. The Army will no longer maintain a security perimeter,
and the Environmental Assessment's mention of deed restrictions only
scratches the surface of actions necessary to restrict use and access to
maintain the Army's existing level of protection.

The government's early transfer scheme is in theory a creative mechanism
for accelerating the cleanup of Sunflower and lifting the cost burden
from the federal taxpayer. It is fundamentally flawed, however, because
the full extent of the contamination is not yet known, with site after
site identified for further study. Furthermore, large areas have only
been subject to desktop surveys, not field sampling. Typically old
military bases contain dump or disposal sites that don't show up on
existing facility records.

The Environmental Assessment's promise of deed restrictions at sites
that await cleanup or which will not be cleaned up should do little to
assure or protect the public. 

* First, the estimated areas of restriction, like most of the other
environmental restoration data on Sunflower, are "expected to change as
new information (e.g., sampling data) becomes available." It's not clear
which areas are likely only to be restricted temporarily, and which are
anticipated to be restricted permanently.

* Second, the Environmental Assessment simply promises to restrict areas
to "non-residential use." That's OK as a shorthand, but it needs deeper
definition. Non-residential properties still offer innumerable
opportunities for public exposure to residual contamination.
Restrictions must be specifically defined to prevent contact with
hazardous substances or the spreading of contamination.

* Third, the Environmental Assessment contains no discussion of the
enforceability of "deed restrictions." Will they run with the land? Who
will ensure that they remain in place in the long run? If active
measures, such as fencing or patrolling are required, who will bear the
costs? Long-term institutional controls should be subject to the same
careful scrutiny as any other environmental response, and where
impracticable they should be rejected.

* Fourth, the map that presents the likely boundaries of areas to be
restricted contains several unrestricted areas virtually surrounded by
contaminated, restricted areas. That doesn't even make sense where the
full extent of contamination is known. Here, it's ridiculous.

The Environmental Assessment also contains what appears to be new -
compared to the draft version - information about the euphemistic
"Environmental Stabilization Program." This refers to the open burning
of buildings and other structures without the prior removal of asbestos
or lead-based paint. This Program justifies the release of legally
unsafe concentrations of asbestos because of the chance that manual
abatement might trigger explosions. It "will continue after transfer in
the event disposal ... occurs prior to completion."

Admittedly, I thumbed through the lengthy Environmental Assessment
quickly, but I didn't find any mention of plans to mitigate the impact
of burning asbestos-containing structures. Depending upon the timing,
continued "stabilization" could expose construction workers or the
public to known hazardous emissions, and it could deposit additional
hazardous residue through the area. Hopefully, this risk is being
addressed in other documents, but it should also be documented in the
Environmental Assessment.

It may be that the various government agencies are working on all these
issues, and that they'll soon publish agreements that provide detailed,
practical assurances that the disposal of Sunflower will not threaten
public health. I look forward to seeing and reviewing such documents.
But this Environmental Assessment should not be deemed adequate simply
because additional documents are expected to address many of the issues
that it puts off.

Lenny Siegel


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 222B View St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/968-1126

You can find archived listserve messages on the CPEO website at 


If this email has been forwarded to you and you'd like to subscribe, please send a message to: 


Check out the new and improved Topica site!

  Prev by Date: [CPEO-MEF] "Canaries on the Rim" publicity tour
Next by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Stakeholder Information
  Prev by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] "Canaries on the Rim" publicity tour
Next by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Stakeholder Information

CPEO Lists
Author Index
Date Index
Thread Index