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Chanute Air Force Base

Former Chanute Air Force Base Environmental Restoration Program

Fact Sheet #1
January 1999

Rantoul, Illinois

Introduction

This is the first of a series of Illinois EPA fact sheets to acquaint you with the environmental resion program at the former Chanute Air Force Base (AFB). These fact sheets will contain information regarding various topics of concern, including site history, site status, and any site-specific issues which need to be addressed in a timely manner. We are aware that some of the information in this fact sheet may be redundant from previous fact sheets distributed by the Air Force Base, however, we are attempting to provide sufficient background information for newly-interested community members. It is our intention that Illinois Environmental Protection Agency fact sheets will be distributed every two months, prior to the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meetings. However, in the future, it is the Illinois EPA's intention to transfer the development and distribution of fact sheets to the Air Force.

Environmental Guidance and Laws

The military, due to the very nature of its mission, has engaged in a wide variety of operations involving hazardous materials. In some cases, movement from these materials may have caused some damage to the environment requiring action to identify and remove the hazard. Knowledge gained from advanced research and technology, has lead to changes in techniques of handling, using and disposing of these materials in order to protect human health and the environment.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or "Superfund" which was passed by Congress in December 1980 provides a series of programs and phases to address the cleanup of hazardous waste disposal and spill sites. CERCLA has been modified and amended throughout the years, most significantly in 1986 by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). Under CERCLA and SARA, the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP), (40 CFR 300) provides detailed regulatory descriptions and guidelines which must be followed at hazardous waste sites.

Federal laws now require government agencies and the private sector to identify all past and potentially hazardous waste disposal sites. Over the past decades, it has become increasingly clear that environmental contamination at federally-owned and -operated facilities poses a significant challenge for the nation. Adopted by the Air Force in 1981 from the Department of Defense (DoD) program, the Installation Restoration Program (IRP) identifies the hazardous materials and specifies the process for cleaning up and controlling the contamination created from past waste disposal activities and practices at military installations and at formerly owned, used or affected properties. Base closures or re-alignments are required to comply with CERCLA as stated in the Compliance Act, Section 120. The IRP is the basis for investigations and responses or cleanup on Air Force installations under the provisions of the CERCLA. IRP investigations are conducted and managed accordance with the NCP, U.S. EPA guidance and state regulations, and requirements as outlined in CERCLA and SARA, Section 120.

History of Chanute Air Force Base

Chanute Air Force Base is located on the southern edge of Rantoul (Champaign County), Illinois. The main Base is comprised of 2125 acres. The primary mission of the AFB was to provide military and technical training for Air Force officers, airmen, and civilian employees, and for other Department of Defense agency personnel. Training activities focused on operation and maintenance of military aircraft and ground support equipment.

Chanute Field (640 acres) was constructed, initially serving as a pilot training facility and a storage depot for aircraft engines and paint in 1917. From 1922 through 1938, Chanute served as a training school for all Air Corps mechanics. The Air Corps Technical Training Command was initially headquartered at Chanute in 1941. Technical training operations during World War II included aircraft maintenance, weather observation, life support, and metal processing.

Following World War II, Chanute continued to serve as a training installation for aerospace and weapon system support personnel under a variety of organizational titles. The installation was designated in 1959, the Chanute Technical Training Center, which was later designated the 3330th Technical Training Wing. In July 1971, military flight operations were terminated at Chanute, and it became a non-flying training Base. All military operations ceased in September 1993, and the facility became available for other uses, including civilian and commercial. The Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) currently oversees all Base closure and conversion activities, in conjunction with the Illinois EPA and U.S. EPA.

Chanute AFB Map

Map of Chanute Air Force Base
Larger Map

Waste Disposal at this Site

Limited historical information is available regarding past waste disposal activities at Chanute Air Force Base, particularly during the early years of operation. During 1930s and' 1940s, waste generated at the AFB was disposed primarily by placing waste material and refuse in open dumps. Flammable materials such as fuels, solvents, and oils were often disposed by using them for firefighting training activities. In the 1950s and 1960s, waste disposal activities began to shift over to utilization of landfills where waste materials were placed in excavated trenches and covered with soil.

The hazardous waste sites at the Chanute Air Force Base are currently divided into two groups - either areas where hazardous materials have been placed in/on for the disposal of the materials (IRP sites) or where leaks or spillage of petroleum materials have occurred (underground storage tanks or UST sites). According to the Basewide Environmental Study, several IRP and UST sites have been identified at Chanute AFB: four landfills (used in chronological and numerical order), two fire training areas, fourteen (three have been removed) oil/water separators, one trichloroethylene (solvent) spill, one sludge disposal pit, sixty-six (sixtyfive have been removed) underground storage tanks, and two fuel transfer lines.

The majority of sites containing petroleum products have been excavated and backfilled with clean soil, sand, and/or gravel. The contaminants from these sites were burned by a process called Low Temperature Volatilization which destroys the petroleum products. The burned and now-clean soil was then used in the backfilling process of the excavated areas.

A Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study is currently being conducted on the landfills. The original RI/FS, which was completed in 1995, contained significant errors in the collection techniques and in the interpretation of the data. The Air Force, along with the state and federal regulatory agencies, want to ensure that remedial action decisions are based on accurate information and are protective of human health and the environment.

Although none of the landfills are located near housing areas, the AFB recently installed approximately 21,000 feet of fencing around them to prevent public access and to prevent a possible risk to human health. Fencing was installed in four phases (see map): fencing is now located along Perimeter Road - south of the old small arms range and along the north and west sides of Landfill 3, the east and north sides of Landfill 2, the north side of Landfill 4, and surrounds Landfill 1. Where possible, all of the new fencing was connected to existing fencing to complete the enclosure of the landfills, thereby protecting the integrity of the investigations and to prevent any unauthorized dumping on the sites.

Topic of Concern

Recently a citizen living on the south side of the former Chanute Air Force Base expressed health concerns for herself and her pets to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). She became alerted to the environmental restoration program at the Base by noticing placards on the fencing surrounding Landfill 4. IDPH, in turn, contacted the Air Force who subsequently decided to sample three residential wells on October 8, 1998. Routine groundwater sampling usually does not include analyzing for dioxins or furans in drinking water. However, since these chemicals have been known to be present in the landfills on the Chanute AFB site, the contractors decided to also analyze for these compounds. Neither the U.S. EPA nor the Illinois EPA were given sufficient opportunity to split samples with the Air Force, however, representatives from both regulatory agencies observed the water sampling. The Air Force requested the laboratory results in a 14-day turnaround time rather than the standard 30-day time period.

Chanute Air Force Base - Drinking Water Well Results
Samples taken October 1998
Standard Parameters: Lead Manganese
Dioxins/Furans
  (ug/l or ppb) (ug/l or ppb)
Illinois Groundwater Standard
7.5
150
Illinois Groundwater Standard not available
Well Sample      
FW01
1.1
245
octaclorodibenzofuran=0.00003
FW02
25.7
92.9
1,2,3,4,6,7,8-heptachlorodibenzofran=0.000004
octaclorodibenzofuran=0.00002
FW02
(duplicate sample)
non-detect
91.6
octaclorodibenzofuran=0.00001
octaclorodibenzodioxin=0.00001
FW03
1.1
274
octaclorodibenzofuran=0.00003
octaclorodibenzodioxin=0.00001

Inorganic Laboratory Results

Inorganic chemicals are naturally-occurring in soils and groundwater but elevated levels may occur naturally or as a result of human activities. Laboratory analysis results (see chart) indicated that concentrations of manganese in two of the three samples taken (samples FWOI and FW03) exceeded the Illinois Class I Groundwater Quality Standards (35 IAC 620). The laboratory results also indicated elevated levels of lead in one private drinking water well (FW02). The Illinois Class I Groundwater Quality Standards for manganese and lead are 150 ug/1 or ppb (parts per billion) and 7.5 ug/1 or ppb (parts per billion), respectively. As you can see in this chart, certain private water well samples exceeded these groundwater standards. Duplicate sample results from one private water well were inconclusive. Therefore, the Illinois EPA cannot draw a conclusion regarding risk associated with ingestion of water from that drinking water well.

The groundwater standard for manganese is based upon aesthetic, not health-based, criteria and does not present health problems at the levels detected in the private wells. However, the manganese may cause rusting or staining in washing machines or toilet bowls.

Lead, on the other hand, can cause a variety of adverse health effects in humans. According to the IDPH, the most sensitive is the central nervous system, especially in young children. Lead can also damage the kidney and the immune system. Exposure to lead poses the greatest risk to young and unborn children exposed through their mothers. Harmful effects that have been attributed to lead exposure include premature births, decreased birth weight, decreased mental ability in the infant, learning difficulties, and reduced growth. In adults, certain concentrations of lead may cause headache, fatigue, slow reaction time, and weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles. Lead may damage the blood-forming system and cause anemia.

Often, lead pipes and solder are the sources for lead in drinking water. However, this appears unlikely in this case due to the fact that the drinking water was thoroughly flushed before the sample was collected. Further investigation is needed to determine the source of lead contamination.

Based on the recent laboratory results, it was indicated to the homeowners of this private well that an alternative water supply for drinking and cooking was recommended in order to reduce the exposure and possible adverse health effects from ingesting lead.

Organic Laboratory Results

Dioxins and furans are a group of closely-related chemicals which are by-products of certain industrial processes such as pesticide manufacturing and paper-making. They are also created, usually in very small amounts, when materials are burned, although some types of combustion are capable of producing relatively large amounts of dioxins and furans. Soils near burn areas also may be contaminated with dioxins. Dioxins and furans are not very soluble in water, are not very mobile, and tend to cling to solid materials like clay or mud (sediments). Dioxins are extremely toxic to some animal species, but are much less toxic to others. The toxicity of dioxins to humans is uncertain but thought to be between the most- and least- sensitive species. In people, dioxins can cause a severe, long-lasting rash called chloracne. They can also cause short-term changes in the activity of the liver, but without any visible symptoms. Some dioxins have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. In light of this, the U.S. EPA has classified dioxins as probable human carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals).

Detectable concentrations of dioxins and furans were present in all three residential wells. The assessment of risk due to exposure to dioxins and furans is currently evaluated by comparing various types (congeners) of these compounds with 2,3,7,8-TCDD, the most toxic type of dioxin found. Based upon the U.S. EPA interim procedure for estimating risks associated with exposure to dioxins and furans, octachlorodibenzofuran and octochlorodibenzo-p-dioxin are considered to be about 1000 times less toxic than 2,3,7,8-TCDD and 2,3,7,8heptachlorodibenzofuran is considered to be about 100 times less toxic than 2,3,7,8-TCDD.

Laboratory results of organic analysis detected dioxin and furan compounds below the current established guidelines and we do not expect any adverse health effects from exposure to these chemicals at these levels. However, their presence is of a concern and should not be dismissed without further investigation. (Some other organic chemicals were detected in the samples but have not been confirmed)

Discussion at December 1998 Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) Meeting

Residents living on the south side of the Base voiced their concern regarding their recent drinking water well sample results at the December 10th RAB meeting. As part of their scheduled agenda, the AFB realized that this meeting could provide an opportunity to discuss the issue with the citizens and to solicit public comments. The citizens claimed that the Air Force Base delayed providing laboratory results which indicated dioxins, lead, and manganese in their private wells in a timely manner. Environmental regulatory officials advised the Air Force Base Conversion Agency during the October 7-8, 1998, BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Cleanup Team (BCT) meeting to notify the homeowners, the Village of Rantoul, and the Chanute AFB Restoration Advisory Board about the laboratory results of the samples taken of the three private water wells. At that time, the regulatory agencies also suggested to the AFBCA that a plan of action should be developed by the Air Force Base in the event that the sample results indicated contamination of private drinking water wells. Although the Air Force Base received the sample results in October, the residents indicate that they were not informed of those results until early December by the Illinois Public Health Department. (The laboratory analysis results were provided to the regulatory agencies on October 28, 1998, via the transmittal sent by facsimile.) The Air Force is currently working with the BCT to address community concerns.

Reporters for local newspapers attending the RAB wrote of the community concerns and anger expressed during that meeting. Both the Air Force and Illinois EPA provided written rebuttals regarding the alleged delays in informing the affected families about dioxins and lead in their drinking water.

What is Being Done?

Until definitive analytical data is available, the Air Force has offered bottled water to the residents. The Air Force plans to once again obtain drinking water samples of the three residential wells in early 1999. Jacob's Engineering, with Illinois EPA oversight and compliance approval, will conduct the sampling.

What is Next?

Environmental investigations will continue at Chanute AFB in order to establish the nature and extent of any contamination that may exist at the site to determine its actual impact to soils, surface water and groundwater, and to establish the risks, if any to human health and the environment. Based on the conclusions of the RI/FS, appropriate cleanup alternatives will be determined, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on those alternatives. Appropriate remedies will be implemented in order to protect human health and the environment.

Technical Assistance for Public Participation (TAPP)

In accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act, Department of Defense developed the TAPP program to assist community members of the RAB in understanding the scientific and engineering aspects of the restoration program. Community members of the RAB may request that an installation procure an independent technical assistance provider to act as their consultant and advisor on technical matters. A TAPP request may be approved if one of the following criteria are met:

  • The RAB demonstrates that the Federal, State, and local agencies responsible for overseeing environmental restoration at the installation and DoD personnel do not have the technical expertise necessary to achieve the objective for which the technical assistance is being obtained; or
  • The technical assistance is likely to contribute to the efficiency, effectiveness, or timeliness of environmental restoration activities at the installation, and is likely to contribute to community acceptance of environmental restoration activities at the installation.

The following types of technical assistance are eligible for funding:

  • Interpretation of technical documents
  • Assessment of technologies
  • Participate in relative risk site evaluations
  • Understand health implications
  • Certain types of technical training

The following types of technical assistance are not eligible for funding:

  • Litigation or underwriting legal actions, i.e. paying attorney fees
  • Generation of new primary data, including split sampling
  • Re-opening final DoD decisions, or conducting disputes with the DoD
  • Epidemiological or health studies
  • Community outreach activities

Opportunities for Public Participation

Members of the community can become involved in the environmental program at the former Chanute Air Force Base by attending the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meetings which are held the Thursday of the first full week (which includes a Sunday) of every other month at 7:00 p.m. at the Rantoul Aviation Center. The RAB is an advisory group which acts as a focal point for the exchange of information between the Air Force, Illinois EPA, U.S. EPA, and the local community regarding restoration activities. The RAB is intended to bring together community members who reflect the diverse interests within that local community; the RAB is the vehicle to identify concerns, values, and needs between the affected community and the installation.

You are also invited to learn more about site history and activities by visiting the Information Repository located at the Base Library on the former Chanute Air Force Base. The Repository contains copies of the technical documents and summaries, fact sheets, news releases, the community relations plan, and other site-specific information.

Library Hours Phone Number
Monday-Thursday 10:30 am - 9:00 pm 217/495-3192
Friday 10:30 am - 6:00 pm  
Saturday and Sunday 12 noon - 6:00 pm  

For Additional Information

Ron Steward
Remedial Project Manager
Illinois EPA
1021 N. Grand Ave. E.
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
217/524-3279
Gary Schafer
Remedial Project Manager
U.S. EPA - Region V
77 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60604
312/353-8827

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