|The Instruments and Flight Research (IFR) Site is located at 2716 South George Washington Boulevard in Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas. IFR has operated this facility as an aircraft instrument repair facility where, according to historical inspection records maintained by KDHE-Bureau of Air and Radiation (BAR), radium 226 (Ra-226) containing paint was stripped from aircraft gauges in preparation for repainting. In addition, stripping and repainting of the dials involved various solvents and thinners, and the paint waste contained a mixture of the radioactive paint as well as solvents. The paint also contained various heavy metals (lead, etc.) connected with the paint pigments. Since several aircraft instruments are also pressure gauges, mercury may have been used in gauges as well.
IFR was granted Radioactive Materials License (RML) 25-R223-01 by BAR in January 1970. The RML authorized IFR to remove instruments from various aircraft, and package dials and pointers containing radium paint for shipment. The license specifically prohibited prolonged storage of dials or pointers bearing paint containing radium, the painting of aircraft instrument dials or pointers with radium bearing compounds, and the removal of paint containing radium from aircraft instrument dials and/or pointers.
In a 1980 BAR inspection, it was documented that the licensee had purchased surplus instruments, including a large number of instruments from Curtis Wright. Fixed contamination levels of 12,000 disintegrations per minute (dpm)/ per 100 square centimeters (cm2) were found on a tabletop surface where disassembly operations were being performed. In another 1982 inspection, alpha contamination was found in the spray paint area at 400 counts per minute (cpm), an old stripping can (3500 cpm), and a spray paint booth (250 cpm). In a 1983 inspection, a paint can and a paint tray were found reading with alpha contamination of 1,000 and 250,000 cpm, respectively.
During a preliminary scoping survey of the facility in 2005, a BAR inspection team found contamination. An indoor radiation survey found removable alpha contamination in a storage cabinet, on a workbench, and a drain. An outdoor survey found radioactive contamination in soils, a drain line, and a container labeled paint thinner.
With the potential for commingled radioactive and hazardous wastes, BAR referred the site to the Bureau of Environmental Remediation (BER) for a joint investigation. Based on the April 2005 Site Removal Evaluation (SRE), it appeared that a significant release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to groundwater has occurred from the IFR facility. Mercury was also detected at elevated concentrations in the area of elevated radiation levels in surficial soils. Other potential decay products, such as radon, may also be elevated in areas with associated higher radiation levels. Definite releases to surface soil of radium paint waste were confirmed by surficial radiation survey results.
In August 2007, KDHE negotiated a Consent Order with IFR to address the contamination identified at the site with joint oversight by BER and BAR. Although KDHE agreed to allow IFR to proceed with a modified approach for phased implementation of remedial activities at the site (first addressing the on-site facilities, followed by the assessment and remediation of the impacted soils and groundwater, IFR informed KDHE that they were unable to complete the remaining activities necessary to satisfy their Consent Order due to financial constraints.
In October 2011, KDHE referred the IFR Site to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for removal action of radium-contaminated material. KDHE understands that EPA completed removal action in May 2014 and a report is forthcoming. Once KDHE receives EPA’s report, KDHE will reassess VOC and metal contamination at the IFR Site. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.