|From:||Aimee Houghton <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|Date:||07 Apr 1998 16:11:28|
|Subject:||ARMY NOT KEEN ON SHELL BLAST CHAMBER|
**** Article orginally appeared in the Cape Cod Times **** Military resists mortar shell blast chamber EPA, local review team believe portable container is a good idea By JEFFREY BURT STAFF WRITER The gulf between the federal environmental agency and the military over how to dispose of almost 1,100 corroded mortar shells on Camp Edwards is widening. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is enthusiastic about an Illinois company that says it can build a portable chamber that would allow the military to blow up the shells without releasing harmful materials into the air or soil. But military officials say the technology promoted by Donovan Demolition is unproven,that the chamber would take too long to build and that open-air detonation is not harmful to the public or environment. "We are not pro or con" about the idea of contained detonation, said Army Lt. Col. Richard O. Murphy, project coordinator for the Massachusetts Military Reservation. "The technology just is not available." Since December, almost 1,100 corroded mortar shells have been discovered inside the Camp Edwards artillery range. In March, the National Guard announced a plan to move the shells farther into the impact area on the base - away from Forestdale Elementary School in Sandwich - and blow them up, something they said is done on bases all over the country. The plan drew vocal opposition from Upper Cape residents, who said outdoor detonation could release harmful contaminants into the air, soil and ground water. Some also questioned whether the military knows exactly what is in the munitions, which date to the late 1960s. The EPA told the military they could not blow up the shells outdoors without reviewing other alternatives. EPA officials also said the open-air detonation would violate an April 1997 cease-fire on all live artillery training on the base. Since last month, the military and environmental regulators have been trying to find a disposal method acceptable to all sides. Cost estimated at $1.4 million On March 16, representatives from Donovan Demolition met with military and EPA officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss the company's patented Donovan Blast Chamber. Representatives from the 34-year-old company said a portable chamber could be built and delivered to the base in about six months; that it would take less than a week to blow up the mortars; and that it could be done for about $1.4 million. The package would include a blast chamber that would be placed on the back of a truck.Company president John Donovan said last week that his company has used the chamber at its Illinois site for 10 years. The chamber would catch the shrapnel from the shells and deaden the sound. An air pollution control unit would treat the fumes before they are released into the air, he said. Donovan said the chamber currently is being used to blow up munitions at the Milan Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee. Two more will be built at sites in Kentucky and Alabama. "Based on your presentation .*.*. EPA is very enthusiastic about the environmental benefits that a technology like yours could deliver," John P. DeVillars, EPA regional administrator, told Donovan in a letter a few days after the meeting in Washington. 'It's simple and it's safe' On March 31, Donovan representatives presented their technology to the Impact Area Review Team, where again it was embraced enthusiastically by most members, except for the military. "It looks pretty good," said Joel Feigenbaum of Sandwich, a team member and longtime base activist. "My main concern is the air pollution (from the detonation), because of the high cancer rates around here. It's just my philosophy that you don't put anything in the air that could cause harm." James Kinney of Barnstable, another team member, agreed. "I got the feeling in the Donovan presentation that it's simple and it's safe," Kinney said. "We feel very optimistic about the technology and will continue to have discussions with the National Guard," said EPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Higgins. Murphy, the base project coordinator, said the military doesn't share that optimism. The mortars should be blown up as soon as possible, and not sit around for the six months or more that it would take to build the blast chamber, he said. "They are not a danger to the (Upper Cape) community, but they are a danger to our community on MMR," Murphy said. Open-air option defended He also disputed suggestions the military can build something around the shells to house them until the blast chamber is built. "The adjutant general's decision is absolute," Murphy said. "We do not build storage facilities for unstable munitions, and we do not move unstable munitions around." Studies show open-air detonation does not pose a public or environmental risk, Murphy said, adding that soil and air would be monitored before and after any outdoor explosion at the base.Until the military is confident that technology exists to adequately blow up munitions in a contained facility, open-air detonation will continue to be the preferred method, he said. He also defended the Army's refusal to allow Donovan representatives to view the site where the mortars were found, a move that angered both the EPA and Impact Area Review Team members. "I was very disappointed," said team member Feigenbaum. "I think that was kind of a petty stalling tactic." In a letter to the EPA, Murphy said it is the military - not a contractor - that will assess the condition of the mortars, and allowing Donovan on the site would give the company an advantage over other potential bidders. "Donovan has absolutely no business being there," Murphy said in an interview last week. He admitted members of the review team have been to the site, but "they did have a reason to be there." Donovan said the technology has been proved by the longevity of the chamber his company has used for 10 years. According to company documents, an average of 64 detonations have occurred each day of operation since 1988 with no major repairs needed. That technology is expected to be in greater demand in the future as more unexploded ordnance is found on military bases. A recent EPA memo estimates there are 5,000 to 8,000 military artillery ranges covering 40 million to 50 million acres in the country that contain unexploded munitions. Those numbers could increase to 12,500 to 20,000 ranges as the Department of Defense completes its inventory of sites. "In summary, as measured by acres, and probably as measured by number of sites, ranges and buried munitions represent the largest cleanup program in the U.S.," according to the memo written by Ken Shuster of the EPA. Decision rests with EPA Given those numbers, Kinney and Feigenbaum said it's no wonder the military is hesitant about technology such as the blast chamber. Using the more expensive blast chamber technology at the Cape military base could set a precedent nationwide, they said, when contrasted to open-air detonation that would cost about $50,000. The EPA will decide whether to allow open-air detonation. After that, it will be up to the military to find an acceptable way to dispose of the mortars. Higgins, of the EPA, said her agency probably would make a decision within a couple of weeks. Mark Forest, an aide to U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., said he and staffers for other members of the state's congressional delegation hope to meet with Donovan representatives this week for a briefing on the technology. Murphy, when asked about military options should the EPA rule out open-air detonation, said he was unsure. "It's going to end up being almost a political football," he said. "It will be taken out of our hands (and discussed) in higher offices." _______________________________________ email@example.com Copyright (c) 1998 Cape Cod Times. All rights reserved.
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