Munitions Survey Project Expands to Include New Areas of Camp Edwards
Camp Edwards, Mass. — The Groundwater Study Program is beginning initial investigations of ten new areas as part of its Munitions Survey Project at Camp Edwards on the Massachusetts Military Reservation. Investigative work is already underway on two ponds and eight training areas identified as potentially containing munitions that were discarded, buried or failed to explode on impact.
Using a variety of investigative techniques, the Groundwater Study Program will survey the areas and, if necessary, clear them of unexploded munitions that could potentially pose a threat to human safety and contaminate the groundwater. Protecting the aquifer beneath the base is the program's primary interest since it is the source of the water for the Upper Cape.
The Munitions Survey Project began after the 1997 discovery of 1,100 inert 81-millimeter mortars in a burial pit on a now inactive testing range located on the Southeast corner of Camp Edwards. The Environmental Protection Agency modified the Groundwater Study Program's investigation to include the additional task of locating unexploded ordnance and munitions disposed of or fired during the historic training activities at Camp Edwards.
According to Groundwater Study Program Environmental Restoration Chief Major Bill Myer, the Munitions Survey Project serves a purpose beyond the obvious removal of unexploded munitions. "We are tying the Munitions Survey Project into our soil and groundwater investigations to see if there is any evidence or pattern of contamination. This will help us determine what needs to be done in other areas where munitions might exist."
The ten new sites constitute Phase III of the Munitions Survey Project. Ongoing investigations at 15 other sites were initiated during Phase I and II.
Myer explained that Munitions Survey Project sites are selected because historical records or site surveys indicate they were training areas or potential disposal sites. "In some cases, like the defense contractor ranges, we have detailed information and maps to guide our efforts. Other sites are identified because they are located in areas convenient for disposal activities or because we find evidence of training during other investigations."
Archive or record searches play a key role in every Munitions Survey Project. The Groundwater Study Program combs records of past training activities to determine what activities occurred at the sites and the types of munitions they might find. The archive search looks at national, regional, local and military records. The archives also include information submitted by defense contractors that used the testing ranges as well as interviews with people who trained or worked at Camp Edwards.
"We also do a site walk as part of the initial investigation," said Myer. "Seeing evidence of heavy training activities or disposal on the ground helps us pinpoint areas where we are more likely to find something beneath the surface."
Locating unexploded munitions and other items requires a combination of technologies. One technology used is an airborne magnetometer survey. Mounted to a helicopter, this system maps out "anomalies", (magnetic interference on or below the surface) that could indicate buried munitions. Airborne magnetometer surveys of more than 5,000 acres at Camp Edwards revealed 17,000 anomalies.
"Some of the anomalies were rocks with magnetic properties and others were power lines or other structures," Myers said. "We identified those anomalies most likely to be burial sites to help us determine the areas we would investigate in the various phases of the Munitions Survey Project,"
Further on-site inspections identify whether ground-based work is required. Using the airborne magnetometer or ground surveys with hand-held or cart-mounted detection devices helps the Groundwater Study Program contractors identify areas to excavate in search of buried munitions.
Potentially dangerous munitions encountered during the investigations are detonated or blown in place. Other items that are safe to move and contain explosives are destroyed in the Contained Detonation Chamber. The majority of the ordnance items found were inert, and when possible they were demilitarized and recycled.
So far, 15 burial pits and five burn pits have been uncovered in the Southeast corner of the ranges, Demolition Area 1, the ASP area and two ponds. These yielded a total of almost 9,900 items, which included mortars, projectiles, small arms ammunition and a variety of other munitions or cartridge casings.
In addition to the ordnance and debris that the Groundwater Study Program expected to find during the Munitions Survey Project, their work has turned up some unexpected items as well. Excavations on the Southeast Ranges uncovered a military tank and two cars. Another car and a freezer were found buried in one of the other sites. These also have been removed.
The Groundwater Study Program, led by the National Guard Bureau, has been working on an investigation and cleanup of the upper 15,000 acres at Camp Edwards since 1997. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection oversee the program.
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