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Phillips Amendment to Clean Up Polluted Minnesota Missile Site Included in Defense Bill

Local fire chief’s concerns about harmful pollutants led to Phillips amendment

Today, Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-03) announced that an amendment he authored – aimed at cleaning up a former missile site in Watertown, MN that left the area contaminated with harmful pollutants – has been included in the House’s FY 2020 defense bill.

The grounds were the location of an anti-aircraft missile site until 1972. In 1974, it was jointly purchased from the military by 11 Minnesota communities – Mound, Chanhassen, Chaska, Eden Prairie, Excelsior, Long Lake, Maple Plain, Mayer, St. Bonifacius, Victoria and Watertown. The 11 communities established the Western Area Fire Training Academy (WAFTA), a joint agreement between their local volunteer fire departments. The grounds were used to conduct fire training exercises for the group for over a decade, until it was discovered that the site was contaminated with harmful pollutants left over from the Nike missile program. Since the 1990’s, WAFTA has attempted to return the site to the military with the hope that it will be cleaned of pollutants.

During his tour of all 36 cities in the 3rd District, Phillips was made aware of the problem by the Mound fire chief Gregory Pederson, who also serves as the President of WAFTA. Pederson had requested action from 3rd District representatives for nearly two decades with no success. After hearing Chief Pederson’s story, Phillips introduced an amendment to the FY 2020 defense bill that requires the Army to report on a plan to decontaminate polluted sites like the one in Watertown.

“In my decades of service I’ve overseen multi-million dollar improvements to our station, brought new fire trucks to our community, responded to 13,000 emergencies - and nothing has taken longer to achieve than this project,” said Chief Pederson. “Our WAFTA group has been actively pursuing funding or any viable solution for over 18 years that will assist us in resolving environmental issues with this site. Dean Phillips is the real deal. He reminds me of a firefighter – he sees a problem and finds a way to get it done. Our entire WAFTA group is excited about the great effort and teamwork shown by Dean and his staff.  A big thank you for all the help on this important issue.”

“There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our communities,” said Phillips. “So when Chief Pederson approached me with this problem, my team and I got right to work looking for ways to solve it. This amendment’s inclusion in the House’s defense bill is an important first step toward making sure this long-polluted site is finally cleaned up.”

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