Kaiserslautern wants former US Army base redeveloped, but contamination concerns persist
Stars and Stripes April 28, 2023
The U.S. Army’s former Quartermaster Kaserne is back on track for redevelopment after decades of delays, but plans to transform it into a commercial district could still be derailed by “forever chemicals” found deep in the soil.
The Kaiserslautern City Council unanimously approved the next phase of a development plan, as part of a bid to revitalize the town’s economy.
The city is the anchor of a larger district with about 250,000 people, including tens of thousands of U.S. service members and their families.
The 22-acre post was built in 1939 by the German Reichswehr as a food supply depot and later requisitioned by the U.S. military in 1951. Army logisticians used the area for storage, metalworking, a paint shop, and as the central dry-cleaning facility, which was destroyed during a fire in the 1980s.
Some of the industrial processes at these facilities made use of products containing a group of chemicals known as PFAS, city officials said in a statement Thursday.
PFAS is an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are synthetic chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1940s. The compounds can create long-lasting pollution in soil and groundwater.
The U.S. Army left the small base in 1998, but the remaining contamination reaches as deep as 650 feet below ground, then-Mayor Klaus Weichel told council members in late 2021.
Weichel at the time called renovation plans “irresponsible,” according to reports by The Rheinpfalz newspaper.
“Large areas of the Quartermaster barracks are … still characterized by heavy soil pollution” city officials said in a statement Thursday. “Expert opinions must be consulted to ensure there is no danger to people if the site is used permanently.”
The former post is close to the park-and-ride lot by the A6 autobahn in the city’s east. Its buildings are deteriorating and have been vandalized, which city officials attributed to its isolation and a lack of security surveillance.
Kaiserslautern’s urban development department is tasked with drawing up plans for environmental impact assessments to determine how businesses would be affected by noise from the nearby railway, highway and an adjacent civilian shooting range.
A public comment period is open from May 15 through June 23 allowing residents to voice their opinion on the project at Kaiserslautern City Hall.