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Congressional District # 15


EPA ID# IL1570024157
Last Updated: January, 2012

Site Description

Chanute Air Force Base (AFB) is located in the north central portion of Champaign County in east central Illinois.  The main base covers 2,125 acres in the village of Rantoul.  A small stream, Salt Fork Creek, flows along the southern perimeter and directly through the southeastern corner of the base.  The southeastern corner of the base is known as Operable Unit (OU) 2, which is the location of past waste disposal activities.  The primary sources of hazardous substances within OU 2 include Landfills 1, 2, 3, and 4; Fire Training Areas (FTA) 1 and 2; and Buildings 916, 922, 927, 932, 975, and 995, which contained either oil water separators, underground storage tanks (USTs), sludge pits, or a combination of those items.  The primary mission of the base was to provide military and technical training for Air Force personnel and civilian employees and for other Department of Defense personnel.  The training activities focused on operation and maintenance of military aircraft and ground support equipment.

Chanute AFB was constructed in 1917 and initially served as a pilot training facility and a storage depot for aircraft engines and paint.  The base served as a training school for all Air Corps mechanics from 1922 to 1938.  During World War II, technical training operations focused on aircraft maintenance and metal processing.  Military flight operations were terminated at Chanute AFB in 1971, and base closure began in 1990 in response to an order issued by the Secretary of Defense.  All military operations at the base ceased in September 1993, and portions of the base became available for commercial and other uses.  The Air Force Real Property Agency (AFRPA), known as the Air Force Base Conversion Agency (AFBCA) prior to 2002, currently oversees the base closure.

Operable Unit 2 was proposed for the National Priorites List (NPL) in December 2000.  Operable Unit 1, which has most of the uncontaminated acreage on the base, is not included in the proposed NPL parcel.

Site Responsibility

This site is being addressed by AFRPA actions.

Threats and Contaminants

When the site was proposed for the NPL, migration of contamination from the sources in OU 2 into Salt Fork Creek was the primary concern. Sample analytical results also indicated migration of hazardous substances from Landfills 1 and 2 into Salt Fork Creek.  The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) collected sediment samples along Salt Fork Creek and analyzed the samples for semivolatile organic compounds (SVOC) and metals.  A sediment sample collected directly downstream of Landfills 1 and 2 contained bis(2 ethylhexyl)phthalate, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and lead concentrations at elevated levels.  During excavation of test pits in Landfills 1 and 2, volatile organic compounds, SVOCs, dioxins and furans, pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls, and metals were detected in the soil and/or groundwater/leachate in Landfills 1 and 2.

Landfills 1, 2 and 3 were capped by the end of 2003.  These caps eliminated all surface runoff from the waste materials and slowed leachate migration into the creek.  Leachate migration will be further reduced when the Air Force starts up the leachate collection systems on Landfills 1, 2, and 3.  The Remedial Investigation of Salt Fork Creek, completed in November 2007, shows that the landfill caps have been very effective at cleaning up creek sediments.  The risk assessment shows that no further cleanup action will be required to the creek itself for its intended recreational reuse.  Consequently, U.S. EPA and Illinois EPA agreed in January 2008 that the fence around Salt Fork Creek could be removed by the Air Force.

Primary remaining concerns are two sites in OU-2 where cleanup actions are incomplete due to lack of Air Force funding.  Fire Training Area 2 was constructed in the early 1950s and was the largest Air Force Fire Training facility in the country for some time. 50,000 cubic yards of hydrocarbon-contaminated soil was removed from the site in 1999 but the removal action was halted by the Air Force without finishing the project.  An estimated ten million gallons of rain water has collected in this contaminated excavation, which occasionally overflows into Salt Fork Creek during storm events.

In 2000 the Air Force signed a CERCLA Interim ROD in which it committed to construct a RCRA (hazardous waste) cap on Landfill 4.  The cap was to have been completed by July 2003, but is not expected to be completed until late 2011.  Access to Landfill 4 is controlled by a chain-link fence, which was completed and locked in August 2007.

The Interim ROD also required a leachate collection and treatment system at Landfills 1, 2, and 3.  The collection systems were completed in 2005, but were not turned on.  The Air Force began leachate collection at Landfill 2 in 2010, but has stated that it does not intend to start up the system at the other two landfills.

Another threat was the deterioration and release of asbestos from above-ground steam lines in OU-2, which were abandoned when the base was closed.  AFRPA cordoned off these areas with snow fences and posted warning signs.  All of the asbestos-insulated steam lines were removed in 2009.


Cleanup Progress

Since December 2000 when Chanute was proposed for the National Priorities List, more substantive progress has been made on the investigation and cleanup.  One of EPA’s main reasons for attempting to list the site in 2003 was the sixteen year lack of cleanup progress since the 1987 base closure decision was made.  On April 7, 2003, the BRAC Cleanup Team (BCT) signed an agreement and milestone schedule which would defer the final NPL listing in return for a commitment by the Air Force to complete the Chanute cleanup by October 1, 2005.  Other than the Interim ROD for the Landfills, this is the only signed cleanup schedule that exists for Chanute, and it is non-enforceable.  Even though the cleanup completion deadline was not achieved, the federal government has not pursued final NPL listing for Chanute.

In the years that followed the signing of the schedule, there has been substantial progress on the Remedial Investigation that has facilitated the recent transfer of large tracts of uncontaminated parts of the base. However, most of the actual cleanup work was put on hold as the Air Force has investigated various privatization and contracting options.

AFRPA plans to award two large PBC (Performance-Based Contracts) to complete the cleanup and begin LTM (Long-Term Maintenance). The first was awarded to Shaw Environmental, Inc. in December 2008.  As of January 2008, this plan calls for construction completion to be achieved by October 1, 2014, which represents a nine year delay from the written milestone schedule.  Several Feasibility Studies and Proposed Plans were being finalized in 2010.  Some remedial actions, including the capping of Landfill 4, were begun by Shaw in 2011.

U.S. EPA notified the Air Force in May 2010 that it would no longer be providing regulatory oversight at Chanute because the site has not yet been added to the NPL.  In addition, the Air Force has a good working relationship with the State of Illinois and U.S. EPA believes that it would be more efficient if cleanup efforts were conducted under Illinois EPA oversight.  If, however, the Chanute site is added to the NPL in the future, it would require the negotiation of a Federal Facility Compliance Agreement and direct U.S. EPA oversight of the cleanup.

EPA Region 5 no longer tracks cleanup progress at Chanute.  For current information see fact sheets posted on the Illinois EPA website: http://www.epa.state.il.us/community-relations/fact-sheets/chanute-afb/index.html 


Congressional Interest

On June 23, 2006, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation creating an independent redevelopment commission for the former Chanute Air Force Base.  The legislation creates an 11-member Chanute-Rantoul National Aviation Center Redevelopment Commission with the power to acquire, own, sell, lease or dispose of property and to issue revenue bonds.  It does not have taxing authority.

Seven of the commission members are to be appointed by the mayor of Rantoul with the consent of the village board. The mayor will be an ex-officio member, along with one representative each from the Rantoul Planning Commission, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The commission was suggested by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and modeled after successful commissions serving closed military bases at Fort Sheridan, the Joliet Arsenal and the Glenview Naval Station.  No funding has been promised, but supporters believe an independent commission might make it easier to obtain federal grants to clean up environmental problems like asbestos and lead paint, which have hindered business development efforts at the site.

In December 2007, U.S. Congressman Timothy Johnson, R-Ill, sent a letter to U.S. EPA expressing interest in obtaining a letter of support from the agency for establishment of a free trade zone at Chanute.  Mary Gade, the EPA Regional Administrator, responded to Congressman Johnson in January 2008.

Property Reuse

Much of the property was transferred prior to 2000, and has taken on a wide variety of uses.  By acreage and numbers the largest reuse has been the base housing, which is fully utilized in a mixture of rental and individual ownership.  Rantoul is within commuting distance of Champaign-Urbana, the home of the University of Illinois.

Notable commercial tenants on the former base include AT&T, Bell Sports/Riddell and the University of Illinois.  Hangar Four is occupied by the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum.

The airfield was transferred to the Village of Rantoul Department of Aviation on August 17, 2007.  The Aviation Department currently operates the airfield as a general aviation airport, and the transfer of ownership will enable it to receive airport improvement grant funds from the FAA and Illinois DOT.


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
owen thompson (thompson.owen@epa.gov)
(312) 886-4843





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