Former Chanute Air Force Base Environmental Restoration Program
Fact Sheet #3
Updated February 2010
This is the third in a series of Illinois EPA fact sheets to help familiarize the public with the environmental restoration program at the former Chanute Air Force Base (AFB). These fact sheets contain information regarding various topics of concern including site history and site status; any site-specific issues which need to be addressed in a timely manner; and, to update the public on site issues.
History of Chanute Air Force Base
Chanute Air Force Base, comprised of 2,125 acres, is located on the southern edge of Rantoul, Champaign County, Illinois. The primary mission of the base was to provide military and technical training for the Airmen and Department of Defense personnel. Training activities focused on operation and maintenance of military aircraft and ground support equipment.
Chanute Field was constructed in 1917, initially serving as a pilot training facility and a storage depot for aircraft engines and paint. 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. In July 1971, military flight operations were terminated and Chanute became a non-flying training base. All military operations ceased in September 1993, and the facility became available for civilian uses.
The Illinois EPA has witnessed substantial progress in recent years. Three of the four final landfill caps have been completed, Remedial Investigations are complete, a multitude of petroleum storage tanks have been removed, and land has been transferred from the Air Force to the Village of Rantoul.
Completion of the landfill caps represents an important accomplishment in the environmental program at the former base. Prior to capping, the landfills were an area of significant concern from an environmental perspective. Uncontrolled access meant the public and environment could be exposed to contaminated materials at or near the surface of the landfills. Rainwater caused erosion of contaminated soils to be deposited into nearby Salt Fork Creek, and infiltrating rainwater came in contact with contaminated material within the landfill, putting shallow groundwater at risk of contamination with leachate. The landfill caps were designed to prevent infiltration of water, reduce surface erosion, and eliminate direct contact of surface contaminants.
The Air Force and the Illinois EPA have worked together to address hundreds of tanks, both aboveground and underground. Although investigation and cleanup of these tanks is a fairly straightforward process, the number of tanks addressed makes this a significant accomplishment.
Heritage Lake was a source of concern for a period of time after a fish-tissue sample revealed that mercury was present. As a precautionary measure, the Air Force restricted fishing until further sampling could be completed and the risks thoroughly measured. Once a more comprehensive investigation was completed, it became clear that risks were not elevated enough to warrant cleanup and the meal guidelines in the Illinois Fish Advisory sufficiently protects the public. For more information on the Illinois Fish Advisory, please follow the web-link below:
As previously mentioned, it became evident that some areas did not present unacceptable risks to the public or the environment. The Air Force identified these areas and was able to group them together for transfer to the Village of Rantoul. Most notably, the airfield was transferred in 2007.
What is Next?
For areas that require remedial action, Feasibility Studies are being developed. Feasibility Studies evaluate a variety of technologies to determine the best remedy for a given site. Once the Air Force and the regulatory agencies agree on a remedy, a Proposed Plan is presented at a public meeting in Rantoul and the public is invited to comment on the proposed remedy. Once comments have been considered, the selected remedy is formalized in a Record of Decision. The selected remedy is then designed and implemented. In December 2008, the Air Force awarded a $39M Performance Based Contract to complete remedial implementation work by September 2016.
A Record of Decision exists for Landfill 4 that specifies a multi-layer cap, just like Landfills 1-3. The Air Force has not built the cap yet, but is designing one and plans to have it installed under the Performance Based Contract. Some sites require nothing more than small soil removals and/or institutional controls. Institutional Controls are administrative and legal controls designed to minimize exposure to contamination, such as zoning designations, use limitations, and precautionary measures. In fact, a Proposed Plan for soil removal and institutional controls was presented to the public in November 2009 and the Air Force will implement the plan in 2010. Other sites, such as those with groundwater contamination are more complex. The Illinois EPA anticipates some of the remedial alternatives being considered include the injection of treatment materials into groundwater, pumping and extracting groundwater, and phytoremediation. There are a variety of materials that can be injected into groundwater that chemically or biologically break down contaminants in the groundwater. Groundwater extraction involves the physical removal of contaminated groundwater through pumping. Phytoremediation involves the use of plants whose roots penetrate into the contaminated zone. Certain plants can uptake contaminated groundwater through their roots where the contaminants can be metabolized and the concentrations reduced.
Opportunities for Public Participation
Members of the community are encouraged to get involved in the environmental program at the former Chanute Air Force Base by attending the Restoration Advisory Board meetings which are open to the general public and are held on the third Thursday of February, May, August, and November. The meetings start at noon in the Rantoul Corporate Technology Center (Former Smith Hall) located at 601 South Century Boulevard, Rantoul, Illinois. The Restoration Advisory Board meetings are forums which act 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 Restoration Advisory Board’s voting members are comprised of individuals from the local community who reflect the diverse interests within the area and ensure the community is represented in the decision-making process. Membership to the Restoration Advisory Board is not required to attend the meetings, but if you are interested in joining the Restoration Advisory Board, please attend the next meeting or contact one of the individuals listed below and ask how you can become a member.
You are invited to learn more about site history and activities by visiting the Information Repository, located at the Rantoul Public Library, 106 West Flessner, Rantoul, Illinois. The Repository contains copies of the technical documents and summaries, fact sheets, news releases, and other site-specific information.
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For Additional Information
Christopher A. Hill, P.E.
Remedial Project Manager
1021 North Grand Avenue East
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
Remedial Project Manager
U.S. EPA – Region V
77 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, IL 60604
Paul Carroll, P.G.
BRAC Environmental Coordinator
Air Force Real Property Agency
143 Billy Mitchell Blvd. Suite #1
San Antonio, TX 78226