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COLD WAR CONTAMINANTS: 60-year-old missile siloes near Missouri Valley still affecting well water

Posted at 12:51 PM, Dec 01, 2023

  • Ballistic missile siloes that were decommissioned in 1965 are still causing issues in the Missouri Valley, Iowa area. Chemicals used at the site are still leaching into water supplies affecting rural residential well water.
  • On Thursday night, at the Missouri Valley Community Center, residents of Harrison County gathered to hear how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to clean up the contaminated water.
  • The community center was full area residents and experts from the Corps of Engineers and an outside engineering firm who are tasked with cleaning up chemicals that have been around since the siloes were closed.

Inside the Missouri Valley Community Center there’s a meeting still going on with the US Army Corps of Engineers. I’m southwest Iowa reporter Katrina Markel and a missile silo site, dating back to the Kennedy administration, just outside of town, is causing concerns within the community some 60 years later.

“Chemicals in the water supply is always a concern for anybody,” said Jerry Keizer.

Missouri Valley resident, Jerry Keizer has had cancer three times in the last four years. He wanted to learn more.

“I want you to know, that we are here to clean this up,” said Scott Sawyer, a project manager with the Corps of Engineers

In the early ‘60s, the threat of nuclear war seemed very real.

What we didn’t understand at the time, says corps project manager Scott Sawyer, was the threat posed by some of the chemicals used at ballistic missile sites, including the Offutt Air Force Base Atlas Missiles southeast of Missouri Valley.

“It’s suspected the TCE, during readiness operations, the missiles were cleaned out… using TCE,” a member of the Corps of Engineers team handling the contamination told the crowd,

TCE — a cleaning solvent used in missile siloes that were decommissioned in 1965 — has leached into residential wells in rural areas.

“You’d think if there was a trend with groundwater contamination, that we would have heard about this long ago,” said Keizer.

The Corps of Engineers says Trichloroethene — or TCE — was detected in residential wells in 2013, along with other industrial chemicals.

I counted at least 15 residential wells on the map (provided by the Corps) with high TCE levels.

Those with questions can reach out to Scott Cawyer with the Omaha Corps of Engineers office:

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