Kingman addresses World War II dross site

March 12, 2019

KINGMAN –The breakout and eventual end of World War II changed the course of history, with cities bombed to rubble and millions of individuals and families affected by a conflict spanning continents. Kingman played no small part in the war effort, and with the passage of time, its contributions are beginning to resurface.

The Kingman Army Airfield saw no shortage of activity during World War II with more than 34,000 gunners graduating between 1942 and 1945. With more than 87 million rounds of ammunition consumed by the end of 1944, the gunnery school played an important role in preparing America’s soldiers for combat. When the war ended, the airfield was home to a different kind of military activity: the smelting down of some 5,600 aircraft.

“And what’s in the dross site is what you would say is the stuff that couldn’t be in the smelter, because they only smelted the aluminum,” said City Economic Development Director Gary Kellogg.

“So they’d have a big guillotine, they’d chop a tail off a B-17, then they’d truck it over and they’d throw it in this big thing and smelt it down,” said Airport Manager Steve Johnston.

However, the materials that could not be repurposed, such as upholstery, were buried.

“Over time what happened in the ground and the alkali soil, there’s been some reactions and those reactions caused this to push up the ground,” Kellogg said of the dross site.

Those gases are now pushing up the asphalt in a few locations within an approximate 13-acre area the Kingman Airport that is now a parking zone for aircraft. However, Johnston said the entire area is not contaminated.

“We haven’t had any incidents or anything concerning them, but as they’ve come up we mark them and we barricade them,” Kellogg said.

Johnston said that will let the Kingman Airport go back to utilizing the property, likely for aircraft storage.

“We’ve sort of been ahead of it, we see it coming up, we cone it, nobody gets near it,” Johnston said. “But by getting rid of it we can now use all that acreage for parking airplanes, or whatever uses.”

The City has been looking to address the issue since about 2005 and has been working with a collection of governmental agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Army Corps of Engineers. The first steps to mitigating the issue are now underway.

Contractors are currently at the airport drilling bores into the ground to produce core samples, which will identify the locations affected by the dross. Kellogg said as of Friday, March 8, approximately 20 out of about 140 had been completed.

“The core drilling that’s taking place is to determine the size and the depth so they know when they open it up what they’re dealing with and how much there is,” Kellogg explained.

Upon completion of the drilling, it’s on to the next step.

“They’ll examine these cores, what’s in there, what’s the depth of them, how big are the trenches,” Kellogg said. “But the cores will give them a lot of information. This has been the single most important thing to get done, is the coring and identifying everything.”

For those wondering what this mitigation is costing the City, they need not do so. The federal government is footing the bill.