Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a committee hearing on “Cleaning up Our Nation’s Cold War Legacy Sites.”
The hearing featured testimony from Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, commanding general and chief of engineers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Mr. Barry Breen, acting assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management; Mr. Kevin Frederick, water quality administrator for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality; Ms. Sarah Lukin, member of the board of directors for the Afognak Native Corporation; and Ms. Alexandra Smith, nuclear waste program manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
For more information on their testimonies click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today we are here to talk about the environmental legacy of the Cold War.
“For decades, the military took the steps needed to protect our nation’s security against the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
“These steps were necessary and prudent to ensure the safety and security of our nation.
“Just speaking for my home state of Wyoming, we are very proud of the role our state has played in deterring the threat that the former Soviet Union posed.
“This involved the deployment of Atlas nuclear missiles during the early days of the Cold War.
“These missile sites were on high alert during the Cuban missile crisis.
“Our servicemen maintained these missile sites by using vast amounts of trichloroethylene or TCE to clean rocket fuel lines.
“These soldiers had no idea that decades later, that practice would create a serious negative environmental legacy.
“Today, there is groundwater contamination from the TCE.
“Seven of these Atlas Missile Sites are around the city of Cheyenne area, and they have varying degrees of groundwater contamination.
“The city of Cheyenne officials approached me when they found traces of TCE in the city’s water wells, and they told me that that Atlas Missile Site number 4 was the reason.
“The Army Corps disputed this claim, and despite their denials, I forced the Army Corps to do testing that eventually proved that the TCE was coming from the Atlas site.
“According to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Atlas Site 4’s TCE concentrations in the groundwater exceed 240,000 parts per billion, well above the safe drinking water limit of five parts per billion.
“The Atlas site plume of TCE is around 12 miles long and 3 miles wide.
“According to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, it is ‘one of, if not the largest TCE plume in all of the country.’
“The Corps has since constructed a water treatment plant that ensures that Cheyenne’s water is clean and safe, and has provided granulated activated carbon systems for private landowners who use well water.
“Atlas 4 is just one of these sites that has large plumes of this pollutant.
“Atlas 1 has a TCE plume that is a mile long, and two-thirds of a mile wide.
“Atlas 3’s plume is a mile long and one-half a mile wide.
“Over the years, I have heard concerns from my constituents about the attitude of regional Corps officials on the ground.
“Each time communities and impacted stakeholders try and engage with the Corps on these issues, they have historically been met with an unhelpful attitude.
“Communities want to have the proper testing done to know the size and extent of these plumes, and where the plumes are expanding.
“They want to know that the Corps will live up to their responsibilities.
“They want adequate funding to ensure their safety.
“I hear time and time again from my constituents that they feel the Corps just wants to do a quick fix, or simply just walk away from the sites.
“This needs to change, and I am hoping this new administration will bring a new attitude.
“I know Wyoming is not the only state that has Cold War legacy environmental problems.
“Many states, especially in the West, have quite a few sites associated with the Cold War.
“We must honor the legacy of our veterans who fought and won this war.
“The Department of Defense, though, has an obligation to leave states like Wyoming whole.
“To not only provide for our nation’s safety, but also to restore the environment of our communities.”