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Air Force moves to shutter community board overseeing toxic pollution at Kelly AFB

Photo: Michael Brajas, License: N/A

Michael Brajas

Robert Alvarado at his home in the Toxic Triangle last year.

He scoffed at the notion that Kelly's RAB is ready to be dismantled. “The fact that Kelly was never declared a Superfund site is exactly what has given the Air Force the ability to say, 'Ok, tough shit, we can pull the plug on this if we want to,'” Ensminger said. “When you look at those neighborhoods I walked through, those people are for the most part poor, and they've been taken advantage of,” he remarked. “They're sacrificial lambs.”

Libert, for her part, reacted to news the Air Force had begun talks of shuttering the RAB with disappointment. “Having that official citizen voice in the mix is so important, so critical,” she said. “It's so disappointing they're even talking about it.” Texas A&M University professor Thomas McDonald, who continues to conduct periodic soil and water sample studies for residents like Alvarado, echoed the sentiment. “Oh boy, the Air Force just wants to wash their hands. … And I grew up as an Air Force brat. My father would roll over in his grave right now.” McDonald's test results continue to show a mixture of chemicals, like total petroleum hydrocarbons and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, contaminate nearby soil and water, though not at EPA action levels.  McDonald says there's still reason for concern. “Is it acute exposure or long-term exposure? This goes back to what is the cumulative effect of everything that's out there, and how long they've been around it.”

José Arzola, one community RAB member, told the Air Force rep at last week's meeting, “I can tell you there is a lot of anger. … A lot of distress over this whole process. The feeling is that the Air Force is going to do whatever they want.”

And in fact, they will. It's ultimately the Air Force's decision, Geissinger confirmed, though the military must go through the process of gathering community input before the next RAB meeting, scheduled for October 2012. “Yes, the Air Force Real Property Agency has the authority to adjourn the RAB, but it must do so after consultation with the stakeholders,” she said. Reps with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the EPA at the meeting both insisted the RAB's adjournment could be a positive step forward.

Geissinger contends the RAB's closure would not mean an end to community involvement. “We still want to talk to the community and have that dialogue. That's not going to stop if the RAB closes.”


* The Current on Monday received an email from AFRPA spokeswoman Linda Geissinger saying the Air Force has since posted the minutes from this October 9, 2007, RAB meeting. While the Air Force told RAB member Rodrigo Garcia this last month his questions about the Aldrich study had been addressed at this meeting, the minutes only show Rodrigo Garcia once again asking why the RAB hadn't been briefed on the results of Aldrich's study. Despite Garcia's inquiries, those results were not presented. You can read the minutes here

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