Caves are fragile ecosystems, and no one knows this better than us. All kinds of natural phenomenon can occur to change a cave system that we have little control over. But man-made problems, however, we can control, and react responsibly to, so we can protect, and preserve Fantastic Caverns for generations to come through our dedicated cave conservation efforts.
Dealing with Trichloroethylene
Trichloroethylene (TCE) - which is commonly used as an industrial solvent, has been migrating outward from a former circuit board manufacturing facility adjacent to the Springfield-Branson National Airport. TCE is an effective degreaser that can evaporate quickly. The chemical can move underground as either a fluid or as a vapor. Contaminated air and water can move long distances underground in karst regions like the Ozarks. Tom Aley of Ozark Underground Laboratory noted: “for decades TCE has been migrating outward from the former manufacturing plant located near the airport.”
Trichloroethylene and Fantastic Caverns
In Late 2016, Fantastic Caverns, Ozark Underground Laboratory (OUL) and Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) began a 12-month study to monitor TCE vapors at the cave. Fantastic Caverns is over 3 miles away from the former plant, and TCE levels have been low, just barely detectable most of the year. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) stipulate that there are no safety concerns for visitors to Fantastic Caverns.
Trichloroethylene vapors move seasonally, upstream in the winter and downstream in the summer. Ozark Underground Laboratory has designed a warm-weather ventilation plan to ensure the vapors in Fantastic Caverns are controlled. Ventilating the cave controls the TCE; however, long-term ventilation could extensively harm the cave. Most recently, OUL scientists have surveyed and designed a series of ventilation shafts west of the caverns to ventilate the TCE vapors before they would be able to enter any portion of the cave.
Fantastic Caverns will continue conservation efforts to ensure cave life, the cave ecosystem and groundwater are protected and properly managed. Monitoring of the air and water quality in the cave will continue, and will help protect our unique cave inhabitants. Cave conservation at Fantastic Caverns is vital, and a top priority for this small family business