Hungarian army begins environmental cleanup of air base used by US

The base was used by the U.S. during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, but Hungarians are now paying the price in the form of significant pollution

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Index

The Hungarian Defense Ministry (HM) will begin the environmental cleanup of the southwestern Taszár air base used as a forward station by the United States during the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s.

“In the area of the military airport, two fuel stations served for the delivery, unloading and distribution of road and railway fuel, while gasoline, diesel and kerosene were stored in underground tanks. The technical condition of the storage tanks deteriorated over time, and the hydrocarbons stored in them contaminated the soil and groundwater,” read the HM statement.

In order to remove the environmental contamination, the government must not only clean up the contaminated soil and groundwater but also remove the storage tanks. The project started with planning and preparatory work in 2019, and the remediation of the contaminated area started in mid-2021.

After the tanks are dismantled, the soil, currently soaked with hydrocarbons, will be excavated and spread on the airport runway, where it will be cleaned by microbiological decomposition. The contaminated groundwater from the open working pits is being cleaned using mobile water treatment equipment; after purification, the water will be discharged into the Taszár watercourse. The clean soil will then be backfilled, covered with humus, and grassed over.

Once the remediation work has been completed, groundwater monitoring wells will be installed to continuously analyze the effectiveness of the remediation efforts. Authorities will also take water samples at regular intervals and conduct laboratory tests.

The Taszár clean-up work will be funded by the European Union and the Hungarian government with a total of HUF 4.1 billion of non-reimbursable funds.

In November 1995, the Hungarian parliament authorized the transit and stationing of U.S. and NATO troops in Hungary. At that time, the U.S. forces considered the options of Kalocsa Airport, Sármellék Airport, Kishunlacház Airport, and Tázar Airport, and finally decided on Tázar because of the length of the runway and the location of the airport. The Hungarian Air Force units stationed here moved to the military airport in Pápa after the end of the Yugoslav conflicts.

Taszár served as a base for Predator drone operations and a training center for a while starting in 1996. The complex served an average of about 20,000 people at any one time, including military and civilian personnel, as well as soldiers going on deployment, returning to rest, or training here.

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