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Feds OK Kansas Air Force base cleanup settlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The federal government has agreed to pay 90 percent of the cost of developing a plan to clean up toxic groundwater pollution at a former U.S. Air Force base in central Kansas, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

The Department of Justice has signed a settlement agreement that requires the government to pay $8.4 million toward developing the plan to clean up the industrial solvent TCE at the former Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, according to the documents. Payment for implementing the cleanup plan hasn't yet been negotiated.

Salina officials previously had signed off on the first phase of the settlement agreement, which still requires U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia's approval before it becomes final.

TCE, now a known carcinogen, had been used to clean weapons at military bases like Schilling, which Salina acquired when the base closed in the mid-1960s. Salina officials, the Salina Airport Authority, the Salina school district and Kansas State University-Salina filed a federal lawsuit in Kansas City, Kan., in 2010 to recoup the cost of cleaning up the pollution. The cleanup previously had been the federal government's jurisdiction.

Salina officials said in the lawsuit that the TCE and other compounds have "migrated into the soils" under residential areas near the former base.

The steps in the first phase include a remedial investigation, a feasibility study and a cleanup remedy, which are estimated to about $9.3 million all together. The Salina public entities in the case will pay about $936,300. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is expected to oversee the cleanup process and approve the remediation plan.

The Salina Airport Authority says on its website that the cleanup project will have its own website so area residents can monitor its progress.