2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2000 13:24:54 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] UXO Risk Management
Here is the written version of the presentation that I made at Cal-EPA's
(Department of Toxic Substances Control) workshop on Unexploded Ordnance
Cleanup yesterday, April 6, 2000. I expect we will soon have a formatted
version available in the publications section fo the cpeo website:

Other documents from the workshop should be available soon at

presentation by Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
before the California Department of Toxic Substances Control
public workshop of the Cleanup of Unexploded Ordnance
April 6, 2000

The health, safety, and environmental hazard posed by unexploded
ordnance (UXO) and explosive wastes in California is a silent,
threatening giant. The attached map lists over 170 sites, covering at
least hundreds of thousands of acres, known or suspected to contain UXO.
When the Defense Department completes its inventory of Closed,
Transferred, and Transferring Ranges, there will be many more sites. And
Active and Inactive ranges - located on property remaining under
military control - probably double the acreage of concern.

There is no authoritative compilation, in California or elsewhere, of
injuries resulting from public contact with UXO. Furthermore, only
recently, and infrequently, have the military and regulatory agencies
begun looking for toxic releases resulting from the use and burial of
munitions. Consequently, our knowledge of the risks is limited, but I
believe that contact - and thus injury, disease, and even death - is
likely to increase as more military facilities close and development
moves into formerly remote areas.

Since the 1983 death of two boys in San Diego from the explosion of an
old artillery shell, the Defense Department has gradually developed the
capacity to characterize and respond to the risks posed by ordnance and
explosive wastes. Since munitions were firmly placed on the regulatory
radar screen in 1992 with the passage of the Federal Facilities
Compliance Act, state, tribal, and federal environmental agencies, as
well as non-governmental organizations, have devoted increasing
resources to understanding how to deal with UXO and related
environmental hazards. As overall awareness has grown, key leaders in
the Pentagon have made a commitment to developing the processes,
technologies, funding strategies, and partnerships necessary to
addressing the UXO problem.

States such as California, with major UXO and explosive waste problems,
must step up to the plate. UXO risk management is not a core competency
of the military, and resources devoted to UXO response compete not only
with the military's mission, but with other environmental priorities.
More important, as the polluter, the military should not be afforded the
opportunity to "regulate" itself. 

In the ongoing debates on UXO oversight, the Pentagon often argues that
its unique explosives safety expertise makes it the logical ultimate
authority for making response decisions. However, explosive ordnance
disposal (EOD) capability is only one of several areas of expertise
required to address ordnance risk. In fact, some of the shortcomings of
existing programs and technologies derive from over-reliance on that

Regulatory agencies also have some, but not all the expertise required
to manage UXO risks. It's important that regulators fill in their
knowledge gaps on explosive risks just as they have with other forms of
contamination. The key point is that environmental risk management,
including protecting the public from UXO explosions and explosive waste,
is a central element of the regulatory mission. To accomplish that
mission effectively, regulators must be trained to understand not only
explosives safety, but the geophysics of range characterization, the
fate and transport of UXO and explosive wastes, and the evolving legal
authorities governing UXO response.

State oversight is not only important on a site-by-site basis, but it is
essential if the Defense Department is to request and Congress is to
appropriate adequate funds to remediate UXO-contaminated property, as
well as to develop more effective and efficient technologies. In 1998
the Defense Science Board Task Force on Unexploded Ordnance, of which I
was a member, estimated that making former domestic ranges safe could
cost the nation over $15 billion. At the current rate of expenditure,
this could take more than a hundred years.

I believe that the state of California - indeed any state with
significant ordnance contamination - needs a comprehensive policy
framework for managing the safety, health, and environmental risks
associated with unexploded ordnance and explosive wastes. By
comprehensive, I means that there should be a single document that
guides state regulatory officials who are faced with UXO, not only on
closed, transferred, and transferring ranges, but at disposal sites,
active ranges, and anywhere else that these hazards are found. The state
policy should definitively explain which, if any, regulatory authority
applies at each type of site, when, and how.

1. At active and "inactive" ranges, California must develop its own
position as to when it can assert regulatory authority to manage both
explosive and toxic risks to its residents. The absence of such clear
regulatory authority led to US EPA's ad hoc invocation of the Safe
Drinking Water Act at the Massachusetts Military Reservation. I am not
against the Massachusetts order, but it's fairly clear that the Defense
Department did not initially expect that to be the vehicle of regulator
involvement. The state should determine up front, without waiting for a
crisis, how it will address threats to groundwater believed to be caused
by UXO or ordnance use. I believe that state has the obligation to
protect its residents and environment from the hazards of ordnance and
explosive wastes, even when associated with military training and
testing, but it should not interfere with military activities when there
is no threat.

2. For closed, transferred, and transferring ranges, the state needs to
develop a position vis a vis the Principles negotiated between the
Defense Department and U.S. EPA as well as the proposed Range Rule. Both
documents provide a valuable basis for overseeing response action at
ranges, but they do not necessarily offer a dispute resolution system
adequate for public protection. In general, state governors should hold
the same shared final authority - with the Defense Department - as
provided in the model Defense State Memorandum of Agreement governing
cleanups in general. 

The draft Final Range Rule is currently undergoing review at the White
House's Office of Management and the Budget (OMB). California and other
states should let OMB know the importance of state regulatory authority
in this area. And the states should make clear that they will use their
own hazardous waste laws to protect the public if the Range Rule does
not recognize state authority.

3. Whichever regulatory authority is used, the state should adopt a risk
methodology. I believe that the qualitative Interim Range Rule Risk
Methodology, developed by the Defense Department in consultation with a
partnering team of external stakeholders - including myself - is an
excellent place to start. The R3M, as it is known, is based upon the
National Contingency Plan (NCP). It basically calls for simultaneous
weighing of proposed remedial responses according to both explosive and
toxic risks. It contains data quality objectives, feedback loops, and
recurring opportunities for public participation. It appears to cover
all the factors that should be evaluated in rating both risk and the
suitability of remedial response.

However, I find the R3M's prescriptive algorithms for combining factors
to be too rigid and too unproven for implementation as is. The Army is
making a good faith effort to refine those decision tools, but I am
skeptical that it can come up with credible mechanisms for
mathematically combining factors within the timeframe necessary to
expand the UXO response program.

Instead, the various factors should be weighed and combined using
professional judgment. This is the way the NCP works now. Proponents of
the prescriptive algorithms say that they will bring consistency, but
the brief R3M Validation exercise conducted last December suggests that
the approach not only does not promise national consistency, but that
different decision-making teams using the R3M may come up with different
action plans at the same site.

That is, the R3M contains many of the elements required for UXO risk
management, but it is still too complicated to understand, too
cumbersome to use, and too complex to fine tune.

4. UXO responses should be based upon a hierarchy - clearance, land use
controls, access controls, and education - similar to the preference for
treatment built into our hazardous waste laws. The risk management
framework, discussed above, should yield results compatible with that

That is, if it's feasible, the primary response should be to clear
unexploded ordnance from any piece of property. Until removal or
destruction occurs, if elimination is not practical, or because it is
impossible to verify complete clearance, the second level of defense
should be restrictions on use, particularly excavation, that might bring
people into contact with buried UXO. Since clearance and use
restrictions usually do not make property reliably safe, then it's
essential to restrict access. Finally, because access controls are also
imperfect, it's essential to educate potential receptors to report, not
disturb, UXO should they encounter it.

A. Clearance. Characterization technologies, which form the heart of
clearance, are a combination of sensor and analytic technologies. They
are generally evaluated on two metrics: their probability of detection
and false anomaly rate. For each technology both probability of
detection and the false anomaly rate depend upon many site-specific
factors, including penetration depth, ordnance size, soil content, and
vegetative cover. The best approach to characterization usually entails
multiple, independent sensors and digital recording and processing.

Because UXO incidents imply a retroactive causal certainty, public
stakeholders tend to insist upon 100% detection. In fact, they usually
seek detection and removal of all UXO, not matter how deeply buried, if
that can be accomplished without significant ecological disruption.
Where deep clearance adds only marginally to the cost, as evidenced as
Fort Ord, for example, then it should be carried out regardless of the
planned land use.

While 100% reliable detection is approachable at or near the surface, it
remains a distant goal for the location of subsurface ordnance, whether
placed underground for "disposal," covered through the grading of
property, or buried as a result of its initial trajectory.

Most sensors now in use indicate large numbers of false anomalies, which
include rocks with high iron content, human artifacts, and ordnance
scrap. Historic clearance practices require the removal of all such
anomalies, often boosting costs and time by an order or magnitude, and
frequently requiring significant environmental disruption or

Since the effectiveness and reliability of detection technologies are
site-dependent, there is no single best technology. Rather,
decision-makers must weigh each approach at each site. More often than
not, detection will require more than one type of sensor. Ideally, the
sensors should be "orthogonal," or independent. That, a metal-detecting
device, such as an array of electromagnetic induction sensors, should be
coupled with as yet perfected acoustic or even aromatic sensors. The
coupling of sensors should increase the probability of detection while
improving the discrimination necessary to reduce the excavation of false

In most cases beyond visual surface clearance, anomalies should be
recorded digitally using precise navigational signals such as
differential GPS. Digital recording has several advantages: 1)
Post-processing can match signals against a library of UXO and other
signals, limiting the number of excavations to those anomalies most
likely to represent UXO. 2) Information from multiple sweeps, under
different conditions, can easily be combined. 3) Sensors can be
transported around vegetation and small structures, with digital
analysis compensating for the indirect paths. 4) Densities and depths
can be calculated to optimize use and access controls. 5) Teams can
return to conduct additional characterization, analysis, or removal
months or even years later.

Some of the technologies necessary to detect UXO reliably exist today.
Others are on the near horizon. Yet more are still undergoing basic
research. In many cases, it still makes sense to act immediately to
limit imminent risks - through surface clearance as well as use and
access controls - but to delay efforts to clear property completely
until new technologies are proven. This phased approach requires,
however, that the Department of Defense commit, subject to regulatory
enforcement, both to developing those new technologies and to returning
to employ them once they are available.

B. Land Use Controls. To the degree that UXO is contained on a property,
either before or after clearance, the goal of risk management should be
to prevent either physical or visual contact. Physical contact is
important because that's usually what triggers explosions. Visual
contact is important because UXO is an attractive nuisance. If a hiker
or a child sees a bomb or shell across a field, chances are he will
approach it and possibly even touch it or pick it up.

It is possible to create formulas that attempt to quantity the number of
contact with UXO on a property, based upon factors such as the area,
number or receptors, hours of use, etc., but any such effort piles
uncertainty upon uncertainty. Instead, I think it is much more sensible
to design use and access controls to prevent any contact. 

Land use controls work by restricting excavation or other activities
that may expose UXO  or bring people into contact with buried ordnance.
There are many possible mechanisms for restricting such activity,
including zoning and deed restrictions. Since each mechanism has its
limitation, it's best to combine controls. That is, for each property
there should be land use control enforcement tools available to
environmental regulators, the local land use planning jurisdiction,
insurance companies, original property owners - the military or its
assignees - and the public.

Though land use controls are often described by general use categories -
residential, recreational, commercial, industrial, agricultural,
infrastructure, etc. - those categories are too vague to be protective.
Excavation is possible on any type of property. Activities, therefore,
should be constrained, instead, because they are likely to put people or
machinery into contact with UXO. Instead of imposing a general use
category, zoning and proprietary restrictions should specifically outlaw
excavation to specified depths, unless qualified UXO technicians are
present to provide construction support.

Ideally, land use controls should be enforced in  two, complementary

1. Regular review. Responsible officials should periodically review the
property to ensure that no activity violates land use restrictions. This
should occur much more frequently than the five-year review - perhaps

2. Trigger mechanisms. Requests for building permits or one-call
inquiries (for utility trenching etc.) should flag a warning, to be
followed up by responsible officials.

In developing use controls, decision-makers should also evaluate
site-specific geophysical processes - such as freeze-thaw, tidal action,
percolation, or erosion - that could bring people or machinery into
contact with initially buried UXO. Regular review should include the
monitoring of erosion and UXO migration.

C. Access Controls. Prior to clearance, during clearance, or even after
all active remediation is complete, it may be necessary to protect the
public by directly preventing contact with exposed or near-surface UXO.
Access controls are particularly important on undeveloped property where
recreational activities - hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding,
boating, etc. - occur. If geophysical processes are likely at the site,
then deeper ordnance is a cause for concern. At a minimum, access
controls include signs and fences. Those should be checked periodically
- perhaps quarterly - for their integrity. 

In most cases - whether or not there are fences and signs - active
patrolling is the most effective form of access control. That's what has
kept people off of active bases. Ideally, patrolling can be carried out
by law enforcement officials, park rangers, or others responsible for
the new use. In many cases, patrolling should be accompanied with clear
criminal penalties to discourage trespassing in dangerous areas. Patrol
staff should also monitor the integrity of signs and fences. Where UXO
is found on islands or coastlines, boat patrols may be necessary.

There is not a great body of knowledge on how well access controls are
likely to work, so community input in critical in planning them.

D. Education. Whether or not clearance, land use controls, and access
controls are carried out effectively, education is an essential risk
management tool. However, as the response at the bottom the UXO risk
management hierarchy, it should never substitute for the other
approaches. Educational programs should be designed to discourage people
from entering dangerous areas and to warn people not to touch or even
approach suspicious objects. These can include displays at trailheads,
videos and comic books for kids, brochures, etc. As with access
controls, no single educational approach works best everywhere. So
again, the local community should play a key role in devising it.

5. Finally, UXO cleanup should be integrated with the cleanup and
control of toxic substances. Virtually every form of explosive,
explosive byproducts, small arms, and often range targets contain
hazardous substances. In addition, other hazardous wastes may be found
in the vicinity of UXO. Yet until recently, sampling for soil and
groundwater contamination at UXO sites was rare.

Each UXO site should be treated as a potential toxic contamination site.
Sampling should be required to determine if explosive chemicals, heavy
metals, or other hazardous wastes are present in potentially hazardous
concentrations. The condition of UXO should be evaluated to predict
releases from future corrosion.

Conducting such sampling and analysis in the midst of UXO is complicated
and sometimes dangerous. There have reports of UXO technicians and
hazardous materials response teams, both under contract with the armed
services, arguing about who should work a site first. The state should
work with the military to develop a protocol to govern the coordination
of explosive and toxic responses.

The state should also work with the armed services to regulate the range
detonation of UXO. Such detonations generate disruptive noise as well as
toxic pollution. While EOD specialists should determine whether it's
safe to move UXO, regulators should have the authority to require
containment, whether or not the ordnance is moved, or other forms of
disposal, if indeed the EOD personnel determine that UXO is safe to

In summary, the cleanup of UXO is a massive, difficult challenge. My
presentation today only scratches the surface of issues to be resolved.
I believe that all parties - the military, as well as regulators, local
government, industry, UXO workers, academia, and public stakeholders -
are prepared to continue working together to build a system to protect
the public cost effectively and reliably wherever UXO is found. For this
system to work, however, it is essential that elected officials in
Washington, DC recognize the nature and scope of the challenge, focus
more resources immediately on the development of clearance technologies,
and indicate a willingness to fund a well structured cleanup program
until these lands are rendered safe.

Lenny Siegel is the Executive Director of the Center for Public
Environmental Oversight., a program of the San Francisco Urban
Institute, San Francisco State University. He is a member of the
National Dialogue on Military Munitions and the Range Rule Risk
Methodology Partnering Team. He served on the Range Rule Partnering
Team, the Munitions Rule Partnering Team, and the Defense Science Board
Task Force on Unexploded Ordnance.


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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