Contaminated groundwater addressed at former Calumet Air Force Station

Published: May. 8, 2017 at 9:47 PM EDT
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The old Calumet Air Force Station in Keweenaw county was active for nearly four decades. However, in recent years, it's been vacant and heavily vandalized. The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority is now hoping to breathe new life into this old base, but there are several hurdles they'll have to clear first.

"A lot of people know about this base, but I don't think there's a lot of people that realize how bad it's been vandalized, and I'm not sure that they understand the contamination issues," said Ray Chase, who represents Keweenaw County on the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

What now looks like a ghost town, was once a bustling Air Force Station. From the early 1950's to 1988 the area was a US Air Force Radar Surveillance Base, but was taken over by the county, and was last occupied by a reform school from 1999-2005.

However, on Monday this abandoned base welcomed some important visitors.

"Today we're with contractors that the Air Force has up here, doing a walk around to see where they're going to be putting in the monitoring wells for checking the groundwater," said Chuck Bennetts, a Chairman for the Keweenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

Unfortunately, the four decades this area was a base, left major impacts on the environment, including groundwater contamination.

"When they had the radar domes up here, they were cleaned with a solvent that in those days used to just drain off and into the ground," said Chase. "So it's leeched into the groundwater, and has contaminated what water there is here."

Last year the Air Force agreed to address the contamination issue, and some hope this will lead to development of the decaying area.

Though it may not seem like it because of the extensive vandalism and obvious deterioration, there are still many who believe this spot is a gem of the Keweenaw, mainly because it has what some say is the best views of the entire peninsula.

"I think the top of that hill up there, what a beautiful place for a rotating restaurant," said Chase. "It's probably the best view in Keweenaw County. I think that eventually we could have several things up here. We could have either industry, or we could have a nice restaurant and tourist attractions. There's any number of opportunities and the potential is here for any and all of them"

"Well it's heavily vandalized, but I would think that it would be great to make it into some kind of a destination for people," said Bennetts. "I mean, it's got an excellent view and it's a very unique area."

Public is invited to a presentation describing upcoming environmental activities and the future of the former Calumet Air Force Station Tuesday May 9th at 7 p.m. in the Keweenaw County Courthouse.