Floor Statement by Senator Mark Pryor
On Environmental Restoration of the Former Eaker Air Force Base
Mr. President, I would like to bring the Senate's attention to a matter important to Blytheville in Mississippi County, Arkansas. Blytheville is the former home of Eaker Air Force Base.
In 1992, Eaker closed and ended a 50-year legacy between the United States Air Force and the people of Blytheville. During Eaker's 50 years, the Air Force benefited from local support of Eaker - support that ensured an atmosphere where the Air Force could complete critical missions.
Today, a decade following Eaker's closure, the folks at Blytheville are trying to move forward and locate new businesses at the former base.
Regrettably, abandoned, decaying buildings with asbestos siding and pipe insulation were left behind after the Air Force's departure and this environmental hazard is preventing any potential economic development on these lands.
Our federal government regulations are clear concerning these types of hazards and the required remediation thereof. It is my understanding that many of these buildings were scheduled for demolition by the Air Force prior to the base closure. It is further my understanding that there is a potential for the asbestos to become airborne as these building begin to collapse.
Mississippi County currently has the highest unemployment rate in the state. It was not the intent of the base closure process to leave a local community with environmentally hazardous waste; however, this is precisely what has occurred. The county cannot relocate new business in the facilities until the cleanup is complete.
I want to bring closure to this issue and I hope that Chairman Warner and Senator Levin will join me in looking into this matter. I plan on contacting the Air Force to get a formal response to the environmental issues at the former Eaker Air Force Base.
I also might seek report language in the defense authorization conference report to help move this issue along. Again, I thank my colleagues for any support that they might provide in helping the people of Blytheville, Arkansas.