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Placer Sentinel

Grand Jury Addresses Missile Site Contamination

Jul 08, 2024 10:27AM ● By Carol Feineman, photo by Carol Feineman

From left, Lincoln City Councilman Bill Lauritsen, Ray Birge and Anne Constantin Birge, members of the grassroots Titan 1-A Missile Site Environmental Contamination and Remediation Committee, were looking at the number of the monitoring well to see what the trichloroethylene (TCE) levels have been over the years. 

One of the 2023-2024 Placer County Grand Jury Final Consolidated Report’s 13 individual reports addressed the trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination spreading today from a Lincoln Titan 1-A Missile Site that closed in 1965.

The 58 county grand juries, made up of interested community members, investigate operations of the various officers, departments and agencies of local government, according to California Courts, Judicial Council of California.

The grand jury is part of the county judicial system authorized by the California State Constitution.

What’s striking about this year’s report is that the grand jury took on the missile site’s contamination that falls under the responsibility of a federal agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Water Board oversees what corrective actions the Army Corps will finally take to eliminate the TCE. 

The areas which are not within Placer County Grand Jury jurisdiction include federal agencies and state agencies. 

Yet the Placer County Grand Jury addressed today’s contamination spreading into a Lincoln active-adult community from the missile site because “it is important to educate the citizens of Placer County about this issue. Cleanup of former military sites contaminated with toxic chemicals such as TCE is a lengthy process. The process typically involves assessments, cleanup plans and implementation, with involvement from multiple stakeholders. It is crucial to prioritize safety and effectiveness in these cleanup efforts.” 

The grand jury’s 18-page report, “From Missiles to Meadows: Restoring Nature’s Balance,” stressed that the former Lincoln missile site “poses environmental health risks due to past activities, including chemical use, chemical spills and unexploded ordnance (military supplies such as weapons, rockets, or armor). The source of contamination is trichloroethylene (TCE), a solvent which was used to clean the liquid oxygen Rocket Propellant-1 piping and was discharged into the ground…”

The grand jury found that “Cleanup efforts will require soil remediation and groundwater monitoring to mitigate environmental impacts.  

To date, no remediation efforts have been completed, resulting in health and environmental concerns from the community. Without cleanup efforts, the contamination poses a risk to the surrounding environment and public health. It is essential for proper authorities to prioritize and initiate cleanup efforts to address these potentially serious hazards. This remediation project underscores the importance of monitoring and managing environmental contamination at former military sites to ensure public safety and environmental preservation.”

A little history is in order. The 54 former intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silo sites in California, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington built during the Cold War in the early 1960s were designed to destroy enemy targets anywhere around the world within an hour of launch. 

The two-stage missiles were stored in underground silos and raised to ground level for launch, according to the Library of Congress. Furthermore, each complex consisted of three missile silos supported by a network of underground fuel storage tanks, equipment terminal, antennas and connecting tunnels.

Beale Air Force Base 851st Strategic Missile Squadron oversaw Northern California’s triangle of Titan I missile silo complexes in Lincoln, Chico and Live Oaks.

Co-founder Anne Constantin Birge of the grassroots Titan 1-A Missile Site Environmental Contamination and Remediation Committee trying to speed up the cleanup process appreciated the grand jury report.

The report accurately stated that no remediation efforts have been completed, according to Birge.

“Many thanks to the members of the Placer County Grand Jury for succinctly and clearly putting the issues on the table for all to see,” Birge said. “And, for the Water Board and United States Army Corps of Engineers to know, there are others watching them.”