2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 15:41:13 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] No Cleanup Is an Island
No munitions cleanup is an island unto itself. The planned response on
the Puerto Rican island of Vieques would set a dangerous precedent for
the remediation of military impact ranges. In fact, it appears to
represent significant backsliding from the Defense Department's proposed
Range Rule.

President Clinton's January 31, 2000 Directive on Vieques states, "the
Live Impact Area will be swept for ordnance and fenced to meet the same
range standards used after the closure of the live impact area used by
Naval Air Station, South Weymouth, Massachusetts." This totally ignores
the Proposed Range Rule, scheduled for final promulgation later this
year. The Range Rule is supposed to apply to Closed, Transferred, and
Transferring ranges within the United States, and the Vieques Impact
Area will qualify.

Developed in consultation with regulators and subject to public comment,
the Range Rule and its associated Range Rule Risk Methodology are
designed to determine site responses based upon successively more
detailed levels of site characterization. The Range Rule will require
consultation with regulators and the public at each installation. The
Risk Methodology, still undergoing significant revision, will be modeled
after the National Contingency Plan. Risk managers will weigh multiple
criteria, including public safety and cost, in developing responses and

The South Weymouth impact area is actually 628-acre Nomans Land Island,
off Cape Cod south of Martha's Vineyard. In 1998 Nomans Land was
transferred to the Department of Interior as a wildlife refuge,
following a reportedly significant, but incomplete ordnance surface
clearance by the Navy. No subsurface investigation was reported. With
just a couple of warning signs on the entire island - and no fences - it
is frequented by unauthorized visitors from the Vineyard and probably
elsewhere. The long-term level of cleanup at Nomans Land is not yet
determined, but the current "standard" clearly does not protect the

One of the feature's of the Nomans Land response - thus far - is that
the Navy made all the decisions. That, in itself, is a bad precedent,
since it is at once also the polluter, the landowner, and the party
liable for cleanup.

The Range Rule, despite its strengths in other areas, will probably not
correct this deficiency. As originally proposed by the Defense
Department, high level Defense Department officials will resolve any
disputes between regulators and the armed services that are not resolved
amicably at a lower level. This final say is likely to influence field
negotiations over cleanup strategies, throughout the process.

Upon request from state regulators and others, the military is
considering an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, in which both
Defense officials and state governors will sit at the top of the
decision-making chain. If the Vieques "agreement" is any indicator, the
Pentagon will stick with its original plan.

Assuming that happens, it's likely that some states with more technical
and legal resources than Puerto Rico will attempt to take control of
cleanups using existing hazardous waste laws. In those states,
differences about how much to clear and clean military impact ranges
will undoubtedly end up in court.


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 222B View St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/968-1126

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