U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gauges Kansans' understanding of chemical warfare training site

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started to research the public understanding of a Kansas community about the potentially contaminated former Schilling Air Force base used for chemical warfare training in the 1960s.

Tim Rogers, the executive director of the Salina Airport Authority, where the site is located, said that the investigation into potential contamination is not related to ongoing negotiations between the federal government and Salina over potential groundwater contamination at the former base. Some officials that were interviewed were surprised by the survey and wondered if it was connected to the ongoing federal mediation, the Associated Press reports.

"That's the consensus back to me," Rogers said, according to the AP. "That it would have been nice to know the context in which the calls were being made before the calls were being made. The corps would have been best served by doing a public information piece about the upcoming calls."

The community of Salina has been in mediation with the federal government over the toxic plume of trichloroethylene, also called TCE, which was used as an industrial solvent and was recently labeled a human carcinogen. The corps was calling to investigate potential contamination from either toxic radiological waste or mustard agent, which were used on the base. The base closed down in the 1960s.

Diana McCoy, a spokeswoman for the corps office in Kansas City, said that the survey respondents were typically cold-called to prevent them from researching the subject beforehand and corrupting the data.

"If the interviewees are warned ahead of time, this could skew the results," McCoy said, according to the AP.

McCoy said there are no known contaminates at the former site. Rogers said he was confident that the study will show that no chemical warfare materials were left behind.