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Gold River Messenger

Missile Site’s TCE Spreading to Border of Active-Adult Community

Feb 06, 2024 02:59PM ● By Carol Feineman, photos by Carol Feineman
Sun City Lincoln Hills residents looked at charts and information from the U.S. Army Corps showing a trichloroethylene (TCE) plume bordering the active-adult community. The residents also listened to a presentation by Army Corps representatives saying that more information was needed to determine the contamination’s extent.

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Remediating a trichloroethylene (TCE) plume that moved from the defunct Titan 1-A missile site in Lincoln to properties across the street and today bordering an active-adult community is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) priority.

That’s what U.S. Army Corps’ Sacramento District Deputy District Commander Lt. Col. Dianna Lively stressed during a Jan. 31 meeting with the grassroots Lincoln-based Titan1-A Missile Site Environmental Contamination and Remediation Committee. Right before an Army Corps’ public informational meeting about the former missile site’s soil vapor and groundwater contamination, Lively and other Army Corps representatives assured the committee that the agency was working on removing the contamination.

Dianna Lively Sun City Lincoln Hills US Army

U.S. Army Corps’ Sacramento District Deputy District Commander Lt. Col. Dianna Lively on Jan. 31 at Sun City Lincoln Hills said that cleaning up the TCE plume from a nearby former missile site is a priority.

Minutes later at the public meeting, however, Army Corps representatives told about 250 residents that remediation would not begin until at least 2027. Army Corps representatives at both meetings would not estimate when remediation would start.

The Titan 1-A Missile site at 401 Oak Tree Lane in Lincoln was one of 18 former intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silo sites in California, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington during the Cold War.

Each Titan 1 missile site stored three missiles in the underground silos. Beale Air Force Base 851st Strategic Missile Squadron near Marysville oversaw the Titan I missile sites in Lincoln, Chico and Live Oak. Lincoln’s missile site operated from 1962 to 1965. 

According to the Jan. 31 public meeting presentation, the Army Corps will place three soil vapor probes and a groundwater monitoring well at a church property located in between the missile site and the Sun City Lincoln Hills (active-adult community) border. The Army Corps will add probes and five monitoring wells along the Sun City Lincoln Hills border. The reason for the probes and the monitoring wells is because the federal agency “wants a better understanding of the amount of contamination in the area,” according to Army Corps Deputy Chief for Public Affairs Tyler Stalker.

“It’s hard to say when everything will be finished,” said Army Corps technical lead Matthew Marlatt during the public presentation. “We don’t know yet.”

Asked by the Messenger Publishing Group when remediation could possibly start, Marlatt would not answer and said to look at the meeting slide that described the CERCLA process. CERCLA stands for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.

The project is in the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) phase. Samples of soil, soil vapor and groundwater are collected and analyzed to determine the contamination's extent. The Army Corps expects to finish the study in 2024, followed by a proposed plan in 2025 and an approved record of decision with the state of California in 2026, according to the Jan. 31 public presentation.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the federal agency responsible for cleaning up the contamination and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board is the state agency responsible for remediation oversight.

Eliminating the TCE “is not a fast process,” said U.S. Army Corps Project Manager Tim Crummett. “When the record of decision is done, there’s always the unknown. Things don’t go as planned.”

The Jan. 31 presentation was the Army Corps’ second public presentation on the Lincoln missile site’s remediation efforts.

Tim Crummett Carrie Ross Matthew Marlatt Harvey Jones Felix Yeung

Army Corps representatives who spoke at the Jan. 31 public informational meeting were, from left, U.S. Army Corps Project Manager Tim Crummett, Parsons contractor Carrie Ross, Army Corps Technical Lead Matthew Marlatt, Army Corps Section Chief Harvey Jones, Army Corps Deputy Chief for Public Affairs Tyler Stalker and Army Corps representative Felix Yeung.

During the first public presentation on May 31 at Sun City Lincoln Hills, Crummett said, “We have a carcinogen in the groundwater. It’s under the ground. It’s not too far from you. It’s in your neighborhood. We all agree, everyone in this room, we want it removed.”

Crummett, at the May 31 presentation acknowledged that several Lincoln residents and the Army Corps representatives disagreed about the health risks and levels of TCE contamination in the groundwater. He said residents were not at risk.

Others, including Center for Public Environmental Oversight Executive Director Lenny Siegel, Lincoln resident and grassroots committee member Anne Constantin Birge, Lincoln City Councilmember Bill Lauritsen and Lincoln City Manager Sean Scully strongly disagreed and have pushed for remediation.

Exposure to high TCE concentrations can cause dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, unconsciousness, liver damage and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Army Corps included a fact sheet in a Jan. 18 email blast inviting the public to the Jan. 31 public informational meeting.

The fact sheet stated, “However, the data collected as part of the Remedial Investigation (2018-2023) indicates that there is no imminent risk to residents that live or work near the former missile complex as the impacted soil vapor is within undeveloped land to the southwest, and groundwater is not used as a drinking water source. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board), the government regulatory agency coordinating with USACE on this project, concurs with this finding.”

The grassroots Lincoln committee has said that the health risks are not from the drinking water supply, but from TCE vaporizing from the groundwater.

What Lincoln Officials Said About the Jan. 31 Meeting

“We were excited to hear about the additional testing measures that will be implemented in the very near term, which will hopefully give a better quantitative view of the contamination and its spread or movement,” said Lincoln City Manager Scully on Feb. 1. “...We consistently heard from USACE personnel about how important it is for the city and community to remain engaged on this issue as a partner in the process, so we will continue to advocate, participate and coordinate until remediation is complete.”

Lincoln City Councilmember Bill Lauritsen had another perspective.

“The USACE presentation was disappointing on several fronts, although I have two main concerns. The first was the ‘Area of Concern’ or testing zone outlined within the yellow border on their maps. This ‘Area’ excluded Sun City, even though it goes right up to the Sun City fence and the area immediately downhill south from the already contaminated zone...” Lauritsen said. “My second concern is the timeline. If what I heard is right, the Army Corps of Engineers won’t really begin remediation until 2029 at the earliest. This is not a pleasant thought. Developers want to build on this land and residents of Sun City are rightly concerned about the spreading contamination... We need to begin testing beyond the yellow line and push for a speeded-up calendar.”