Former Dakota County NIKE Missile Site

This provides general information about the public health issues associated with the Former Dakota County NIKE Missile Site for people living near the site and other interested people. It does not provide a comprehensive discussion of all available technical information about the site, or of all health issues related to the site. More detailed information can be found in reports that are available from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

On this page:
Site description and history
What contaminants have been detected at the site and where were they found?
Are there any health hazards from the site?
What is being done at the site?
Printable Information Sheet: Former Dakota County Nike Airbase Site, Apr. 1997, (PDF: 164KB/4 pages)
Health Consultation: Former Dakota County Nike Airbase Site, Mar. 1997 (PDF: 3,637KB/35 pages)

Site description and history

The former Dakota County NIKE Missile site is located at 1462 260th Street. It is about seven miles southeast of Farmington, Minnesota, and thirty miles south of downtown St. Paul. The NIKE site is located in a mostly rural area, in the outer ring of Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs. It is surrounded by farm land, and scattered homes. There are approximately a dozen homes within one mile of the site.

The NIKE missile site was built in 1959. It was one of four bases constructed during the Cold War era to defend the Twin Cities from possible enemy aircraft attacks. A communications facility associated with the missile site is located about one mile northwest of the site. That facility is not discussed in this report.

A waste-water treatment plant formerly operated by the U.S. Army is considered part of the missile site. This treatment plant stands on a separate, unfenced piece of land, about 250 yards south of the main facility. (see map of Former Dakota County Nike Airbase and Surrounding Area)

The NIKE site closed in 1972. In 1973, the (former) United States Bureau of Mines (USBM) took over the property, and used the base as a water-jet, rock-cutting research center until 1995. The USBM was disbanded in 1995. Management of the NIKE property is now being handled by the Twin Cities Research Center (TCRC) Closure Team. The Federal Government is planning to transfer ownership of the site to a different government agency or private party. It is not known how the site will be used in the future.

Access to the main NIKE complex is restricted, and the site is enclosed by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. A communications tower used by the Minnesota Department of Transportation is located within the fenced part of the NIKE complex. The Dakota County Sheriff's Department also uses this area of the complex for training exercises.

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What contaminants have been detected at the site and where were they found?

In the summer of 1996, metallic mercury was discovered by a high school student who was bicycling on the unfenced part of the property. The mercury, which was found at the waste- water treatment plant, was traced to a broken bearing from an old water-filtration device. The mercury spill was reported to government authorities, including the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). MDH notified the Dakota County Office for Environmental Management about the problem.

Dakota County staff removed about an ounce of visible mercury droplets from the site, then contacted the TCRC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These agencies removed the source of mercury, and tested the nearby soil and groundwater for mercury. A small amount still remained in the soil. A clean-up of this soil was completed during the Summer of 1997.

In addition to helping with the mercury cleanup, the TCRC team conducted an extensive study of the water and the soil on the entire site. The results of soil and groundwater tests (in both fenced and unfenced areas of the complex) revealed low levels of contamination. As indicated below, contamination on the site is being addressed by the TCRC, with the Army Corps of Engineers.

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Are there any health hazards from the site?

Because of the minimal chemical contamination, exposure of people living nearby the site is not a health concern. However, people who wander onto the unfenced areas of the site are at increased risk of injury because of the poor condition of the buildings at the former waste- water treatment plant. Security on the site has been improved to prevent unlawful access.

The small amounts of contaminants detected in groundwater at both the main complex and the waste-water treatment facility are below levels of health concern. As on-site levels of contamination are low, MDH believes that the drinking water wells for homes nearby are not affected.

Lead paint and exposed asbestos materials, of the type commonly found in older buildings, are present in buildings on the NIKE site. MDH concluded that if the buildings are occupied by future owners, standard lead and asbestos treatment methods should be used to prevent people from being exposed to these contaminants.

In 2001, the TCRC team completed removal of asbestos material that might potentially be inhaled. TCRC will make a complete disclosure of the remaining lead- and asbestos-containing material to potential new owners prior to the transfer of the property.

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What is being done at the site?

MDH, Dakota County, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency have worked together to investigate problems at this site. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the TCRC Closure Team have actively participated in the testing and the cleanup efforts.

Destruction of the waste-water treatment plant removed possible physical hazards to people who are present in unfenced areas. After removal of the inhalable asbestos, the remaining lead and asbestos problems should be addressed with future owners of the property.

Public health documents related the Former Dakota County NIKE Missile Site are available from MDH. To request copies, or for additional information about the site, please contact us.

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Updated Friday, 23-Sep-2011 10:35:32 CDT