By Mary Wilson
The National Nuclear Security Administration held a public meeting and open house regarding their environmental assessment on the impact the transfer of the Kansas City Plant will have on the Bannister
Federal Complex on Tuesday, March 5. Mark Holochek, Manager of the NNSA Kansas City Field Office, welcomed those in attendance and provided some background into the complex located at Bannister and Troost.
“The facility was built in 1942 as part of the war effort,” said Holochek. “The facility was a major part of the NNSA’s efforts, and the country’s efforts, at the time, to win the Cold War. That’s a proud history we have here in Kansas City, and a proud history we have in the NNSA.”
According to Holochek, for the past twenty years, the majority of the work done inside the facility is improving the safety and security of the country’s weapons.
“We don’t really build any new nuclear weapons,” said Holochek. “It’s not like we’re out manufacturing weapons and increasing the size of our stockpile.”
Several years ago, the NNSA began to look at the facility and discovered that the cost of maintaining the buildings at the Bannister Federal Complex exceeded the cost to build a new facility. At that time, the search for property to build the new facility began. Two years ago, construction began off of Botts Road and Highway 150. The NNSA is currently in the process of moving into the new facility.
“We started that move in the January timeframe,” said Holochek. “It is a 19-month move process and we should have that facility completely operational by August of 2014. That is really what has set the stage for what we are going to do with the Bannister facility.”
According to Holochek, whenever the federal government makes a decision on this scale, they go through what is called a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process, which is in place to determine the environmental impacts of the decision, which in this case is to move the facility. Part of that process is to gather feedback from the public to consider the impact to the surrounding area.
A presentation was given by David Caughey, the Kansas City Field Office Environmental Manager, who explained the draft environmental assessment and related topics.
“We’re trying to decide whether to transfer or not to transfer the Kansas City Plant to a potential new owner,” said Caughey. “Your public input is important to that particular process.”
The NEPA requires that facilities consider the environmental impact and alternatives before deciding a course of action, and is designed that agencies inform the public and gather the public’s input as environmental concerns are evaluated.
“We’re hoping to reduce the NNSA’s operational footprint and to lower the overall cost of operating this facility on behalf of the government,” said Caughey. “We also want to ensure that the transfer of the property is done in an environmentally safe and fiscally responsible manner.”
The NNSA is also preparing the environmental assessment to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action. A draft of the assessment was published in February of 2013, with the final assessment planned for publication in Spring 2013. Public comments are being accepted through March 14, 2013, and the transfer of the Kansas City Plant to a non-federal entity would not be executed until the completion of the NEPA process.
“A final decision on whether or not to transfer the Kansas City Plant has not been made,” said Caughey.
The Kansas City Plant, located on the Bannister Federal Complex, is owned by the NNSA, and consists of about 122 acres and 38 buildings. The General Services Administration owns the remainder of the
Complex. According to Caughey, the Kansas City Plant portion of the Bannister Federal Complex has been characterized and continues to be assessed for the presence of contamination that might impact soils and groundwater at the site.
“Active remediation has and is taking place at previously identified contamination sites,” said Caughey. “We have ongoing environmental monitoring and maintenance in accordance with a state-issued Hazardous Waste Management Facility Part I Permit.”
According to Caughey, the General Services Administration is evaluating its options to relocate their operations to a new location. The NNSA is proposing to transfer the Kansas City Plant, in whole or in part, to one or more entities for a use that is different from its current use. Market analysis indicates that the most likely future use of the facility would be a mix of general commercial operations, including industrial, warehouse and office space.
“We compared and analyzed the range of possible future uses against various categories,” said Caughey, “things like air quality, or water resources. Some things are environmental in a broader sense, like aesthetics and socioeconomics and cultural resources. Those are also categories that we had to analyze in the course of putting together this environmental assessment.”
The draft analysis of the environmental assessment shows no significant environmental impacts, according to Caughey. The environmental assessment will provide the decision makers with information needed to determine whether NNSA should keep the facility or transfer the facility. Additional regulatory steps and remediation actions will be conducted before the land can be transferred. The process also requires Missouri’s governor to review and approve the transfer, which also includes public participation.
The public comment period of the draft environmental assessment was requested from anyone interested or concerned with the proposed transfer of the Kansas City Plant to a new owner. A court reporter was utilized to provide a complete an accurate transcript for the public comment portion of the meeting, which will be included in the final environmental assessment along with all written comments received during the public comment period.
Members of the community voiced concerns over the cleanup process, and the potential of the NNSA leaving the buildings and grounds to become blighted. Others were concerned about what kind of material and contamination is on the site and the current containment process.
“On February 23, 2012, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution dealing with the process of the reuse of the Bannister Federal Complex,” said 6th District Councilman John Sharp. “The first point in the resolution was that a transfer for private development was preferable for keeping the site under federal ownership than sitting there boarded up.”
Sharp also discussed three additional points, including a remix use plan for the facility, elimination of contamination and the demolition of older buildings accomplished in a timely manner.
“To say that there would be no likely retail use on a 300-acre site that fronts on two major thoroughfares does seem to be excessively limiting what the likely reuse would be,” said Sharp. “I would hope that as part of this process, the resolution would include more types of mixed use that could be considered prudent.”
According to Sharp, the site has significant potential for growth in South Kansas City.
“We need to see it developed in a timely manner,” said Sharp, “not sitting there decaying as vacant buildings.”
Comments regarding the draft environmental assessment will be accepted until March 14, 2013. An electronic version of the document is available on the NEPA NNSA Headquarters website at http://energy.gov/nepa. Comments can be sent by email to KCPEAComments@nnsa.doe.gov.