WATERTOWN — The old Watertown missile site, owned by the Western Area Fire Training Academy (WAFTA), may finally get cleaned up.

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minnesota, announced in Dec. 17 news release that his amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act passed in the Senate.

“When it comes to defense, it’s my job to ensure that Washington is fulfilling its promise to uphold the safety and security of Minnesotans,” Phillips said in the release. “That is exactly what we accomplished with our deal today and I’m proud that after more than two decades of hard work, a solution is in sight for eleven of our communities. My door is always open to local leaders who wish to be partners in my mission to generate results for Minnesota.”

The House approved the bill, with Phillips’ amendment, in July. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law soon, the release said.

WAFTA, which includes the communities of Mound, Chanhassen, Chaska, Eden Prairie, Excelsior, Long Lake, Maple Plain, Mayer, St. Bonifacius, Victoria and Watertown, purchased the site in 1974 and used it to train fire departments, the release says.

The site was also leased to Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy, which used the land to train employees in basic firefighting skills.

It was discovered later that the site was contaminated from harmful pollutants leftover from the Nike missile program that occupied the land years before and WAFTA stopped using the site, the release says. The site is also contaminated with materials used in firefighter training conducted by WAFTA, Xcel and CenterPoint.

Phillips’ amendment requires the U.S. Army to identify sites nationwide where contaminates were left and recommend the best way to clean them up.

“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,” Mound Fire Chief Greg Pederson said in the release. “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.”

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.

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