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Guest Questions: Kammerer Concerned About Ellsworth Water Pollution

My friend Marvin Kammerer from Meade Count has some questions about the Superfund site known as Ellsworth Air Force Base. Specifically, he wants to know more about the plan the base and the Ellsworth Development Authority have to provide free water to neighboring residents whose wells the military has contaminated. Mr. Kammerer says he has sent these questions around to his local paper and other publications in the state but gotten no response.

Referring to an article written by Siandara Bonnet and printed in the Rapid City Journal  November 13, 2021. I have some questions that need to be answered by Scott Landguth of the Ellsworth Development Authority or the Ellsworth Air Force Base commander at the next Black Hills Forum and Press Club meeting.

  1. Why didn’t Ellsworth prepare the area where they practice fire fighting with foam before using this dangerous chemical PFAS (Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) which already poisons the soil and water of twenty six wells southwest of Ellsworth? If in doubt, Google up “Highland Dairy farmer Art Schaap of Clovis, New Mexico”. He can’t even sell his cows for dog food! Why do we still use these chemicals? The referenced article states that there are problems from southwest of the base to New Underwood.
  2. Scott Landguth says the Airforce doesn’t provide water off the base, but I have to ask why was the waterline to the base tapped on the west side of Dyess Road to provide water for the Airstream Travel Trailer convention some years back. The boys in blue were all gathered there when they tapped this eighteen inch waterline coming from Rapid City. Landguth says these people impacted by the contamination need good water and I agree. We shouldn’t be poisoning anybodys’ water.
  3. The contamination is moving south and will damn sure pollute Box Elder creek. Why is this issue not addressed?
  4. Why does one have to go as far as Black Hawk to dig a well into the Madison Aquifer? Maybe it’s because developers will also get to use water needed for the people impacted by the contamination. So, is the Air Force going to fund this project? Why can’t they use water from the line coming from Rapid City to serve the impacted people? They have used the water line before.

Let me state here and now that Ellsworth Air Force base is still on the Superfund site list, officially referred to as the National Priorities List [Marvin Kammerer, email to Dakota Free Press, 2022.01.15].

I invite readers, Box Elder residents, and other interested parties to check their water and ask Rapid City’s military-industrial complex if it is taking all reasonable steps to ensure a sustainable environment.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-01-16 18:43

    Ellsworth AFB is home to a Superfund site so are Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota and FE Warren AFB, Wyoming. All participate in the deployments over the Powder River Training Complex.

    In 2018 an interested party pressed teevee meteorologist Andrew Shipotofsky to investigate Ellsworth’s involvement in geoengineering so the Air Force responded by suspending the ‘Combat Raider’ war games over the PRTC blaming a near-miss with a general aviation aircraft in 2016. There have been several incidents in the Complex and at least one took a life. Shipotofsky left the Rapid City market for blue state Oregon.

    According to the Environmental Working Group the Department of Defense has not fully briefed farmers about the likely pollution of surface and groundwater near some 36 of 126 military bases with the highest parts per trillion of PFAS contamination.

    Officials at Ellsworth Air Force Base say nine private drinking water wells in Box Elder tested above the US Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level for two chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, compounds in a foam used to fight petroleum-based fires at a site where pit fires are common. The Cheyenne River is already a toxic waste dump.Larry

  2. Porter Lansing 2022-01-16 19:18

    23 Years Ago – The US Air Force (USAF), which for decades used liberal amounts of poisonous firefighting foam in daily operations at local airbases, has refused to reimburse three small Colorado communities after water-purification efforts were implemented to counter toxins at levels some 1250 times above what the US Environmental Protection Agency claims is safe.

    Highly toxic firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force base has for years seeped into the groundwater of the Widefield Aquifer in the Centennial State’s El Paso county, resulting in undrinkable water with dangerous levels of poisons.
    Three Colorado communities have been saddled with the cost of cleaning up the USAF’s toxic destruction of local water supplies.

  3. John 2022-01-16 19:53

    It’s foolish pretending that DOD and corporate America (or any industrial, materials corporation) cares about public health.
    Every DOD officer including those of the all the federal commissioned services) should receive their drinking, bathing, and washing water from on base sources. This edict should include the executives and board members of all US chartered industrial and materials corporations. They should drink the same local water, breathe the same local air. No living upstream allowed. If we barred them from crapping where they sleep . . . we would not have these problems for they would either poison themselves and their kids or become good neighbors. Instead, we (largely the republicans) allow them to socialize their pollution costs.

  4. John 2022-01-16 20:06

    Allow doubling down. Ever wonder why many EAFB officers/senior civilians (retired military) live in southwest Rapid City, instead of living in Box Elder? Could it be: the water?; the “sound of freedom”; the schools?
    The above: water, air, and noise pollution, and schools are family health hazards. Having lived on / near posts for 20 years, my kids identified the model aircraft by its noise, and the type weapons firing on a distant range by their noise. War is a dirty business to human health and its soul.
    One would think that with an engineering school at the door step to EAFB, that the region and state would be on top of the EAFB pollution issues.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2022-01-16 20:33

    Well…fire fighting foam is deadly stuff and takes forever to degrade but even then it’s composite chemicals remain in the environment. It is a persistent problem found in nearly every air base environment and has no remedy, at least until now. Superfund sites remove ton upon ton of soil but can do nothing about chemicals that have migrated to the water table.Degraded uranium found in ammunition is another issue without mitigation. All in all, a ticking timebomb in western South Dakota.

  6. Tucker 2022-01-16 23:24

    I just moved from South Dakota…mainly because the government there is not only corrupt, they are OPENLY corrupt. 15 years of observing that is 15 years too long. Certainly, EAFB,a lone, has and continues to be one of the major contribitors to the polluting of the waterways of Rapid Creek, Box Elder Creek natural water resources which flow into the Cheyenne river, into the Missouri and onward. All of its solid waste disposed of on a day to day basis..hazardous and non hazardous(PFAs, discarded ammunition, household garbage, chemicals on and on is transported to the RC landfill. In addition, the RC landfill accepts hazardous and non hazardous wastes from fifteen plus surrounding communities at least. Why this landfill is still there is mind boggling. What an eyesore from the south entrance into RC.
    The Rapid City stormwater system carries toxic pollutants throughout its entire municipal storm water system which supposedly all environmentally unsafe pollutants is removed at the waste water treatment facility. But, when this RC wastewater treatment facility extracts the toxic pollutants/sewage from the citys sewer system it puts these pollutants into the Citys storm water system when the land fill discharges toxic leachate and wastewater into the stormwater system which ultimately flows into Rapid Creek and onward. These discharges have been consistently, above allowable standards since the early 90s when the EPA started regulating landfills.

    Adding fuel to the fire, all the massive construction projects that have taken place and continues to take place in western SD, these projects generate massive pollutants to be discharged into the MS 4/storm water system by way of the waste water run off from the site. Similarly, all the construction debris(treated lumber and demolition products, etc. Fueling, use of equipment) are all discarded into the RC landfill.
    The SD DANR is delegated to monitor all these polluting discharge players after issuing permit after permit but they dont.
    The RC airport, (city of Rapid City) awhile back was caught dumping sewage into a lagoon without any permit to do so. (ONE WOULD THINK THE CITY OF RC SHOULD NO BETTER)
    It was not until after many complaints by local property owners were presented to the SD DANR to do something did the state agency do act. When it did, no fines were issued.
    Unfortunately, this is how the players mentioned above get by with continuing to discharge pollutants into the water system. POLITICS. South Dakota has no appropriate state environmental agency that does its job its required to do. They just turn their head until enough people complain. And, only then does this agency act,but to the bare minimum, while millions of tax payers federal and local tax dollars are pissed away by all the governing power heads. Follow the money.
    Hand them a glass of water from the RC or Box Elder drinking water system. Better yet from the ground water which is contaminated throughout the entire RC, EAFB, Box Elder community with DCAs PFAs PCBs fecal and many other harmful toxic chemicals the RC landfill discharges, regularly, discharges which have been above federal standards since the early 90s.
    It’s a vicious circle. Recycled hazardous and non hazardous waste generated from the EAFB disposed of at the RC landfill, wastes from Industial plants, and Major Construction sites, and waste water from sewage systems all combined which are ultimately disposed of at the RC landfill. The result of all this waste—-Leachate/liquid and sediment waste discharged regularly into the RC stormwater system which then flows directly into the waters mentioned above…and groundwater which affects privately owned wells within the pathway of this stormwater system and the waterways.
    The people within western south dakota should be seriously concerned with the type of mismanagement the city of RC, the EAFB and it’s very own SD DANR has and will continue to operate through its failure to protect the health and safety of that community.

  7. Jake 2022-01-17 09:06

    Arlo, the military industrial complex (MIC) remains the ‘ticking time bomb’ for the safety of humans on this planet-just like the climate change issues.
    John (above) has it right-if the CEO’s of the chemical corporations and the brass of the Pentagon had to endure what common people have to because of their follies, they would ensure safety over profits. Greed, greed, greed….

  8. Jake 2022-01-17 09:22

    It is a wonder, why local newspapers won’t publish questions like these of Marvin when offered to their papers-but will fall all over themselves to publish pablum articles written on a regular basis by members of the GOP South Dakota Talibanesque one-party government offered in South Dakota.
    I ask the Rapid City Journal and SF Argus Leader these questions:
    “What harm does it do to you to use your paper and ink to enable your readers to question in public forum the military?”
    “Are you concerned you might lose an advertisement of a business that caters to said military?”

  9. Tucker 2022-01-17 09:37

    Jake, simple. Politics. No environmental oversight.

  10. John 2022-01-17 11:51

    Tucker, I’m marking time in SD for a generation to pass . . . then moving out.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-01-17 19:24

    None of this is new.

    How the water is even drinkable downstream in the town of Whitewood remains a mystery as mill slag and mine tailings still litter the creek into the Belle Fourche River, the Missouri and even to where the plume of heavy metal oxides can be detected in the Gulf of Mexico.

    But, with help from former HMC land manager, now Sturgis real estate broker, Denny McKay former US Senator Tom Daschle sold out the people of South Dakota and the tribal nations trapped within its borders by drafting legislation holding Barrick harmless for all of it.

    The property has since been annexed by the City of Deadwood.

  12. grudznick 2022-01-17 20:20

    Lar, as you know, there are many like you and I who have drunk from the banks of the Orman dam and are just fine. I think this creek sipping fear you are spreading about the Boogie Man of Pluma is overrated.

  13. Tucker 2022-01-19 00:09

    Kammerer: A neighbor of mine suggested you contact CNN or 60 minutes or both. They’ll investigate the question plus more. Let your Governor and the EAFB board answer to them. Not the kind of publicity your governor and her puppeteers want…a probing into how corrupt SD goverance really is.

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