2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 26 Nov 2002 18:11:17 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] Washington Post on UXO

At first some of us thought the 16,000 number was a typo, but there's
another explanation. The person who came up with the figure counted
multiple ranges on range facilities. That is, most range facilities
contain multiple target areas and range fans.  For the purpose of this
discussion, I'll call them "subranges." He/she counted subranges, not
what most of us think of as ranges. That's a novel approach, but
unwieldy, because many range fans and target areas overlap. 

If one counts subranges, the number might approach 16,000. But I don't
think anyone has ever counted. Rather, he/she probably multiplied a
typical number of subranges per range times the number of range facilities.

One of the problems with this approach its inconsistent with large
acreage estimates. In generating total range acreage figures - I've
heard 10 million to 20 million on land within the U.S. - the typical
practice is to add up the area of range facilities, including areas
unlikely to contain unexploded ordnance. I accept this practice, because
until initial surveillance - as opposed to record searches - is done,
one cannot reliably declare sectors of old range facilities to be
ordnance-free. If one only adds up identified subranges, the land
between them doesn't count.

Several years ago the Interior Department added up somewhere around 7
million acres in former range facilities on its land. If all 25 million
acres (your figure) of Defense land were covered by ranges, then one
could reach 30 million acres. But it isn't.

Water ranges are another problem. I believe that the surface area of
deep water ranges, such as in the Gulf of Mexico, far exceeds the area
of land ranges. But no one has ever defined what constitutes ordnance
contamination in the ocean. From both military training and actual
warfare, old bombs, shells, and torpedoes are spread around the globe. I
doubt that there will ever be a general requirement to "clear" such areas.

On the other hand, there is a pressing need to define cleanup
requirements for coastal areas, such as Lake Erie (at the Erie Army
Depot), Vieques, or the Chesapeake Bay. Those coastal areas aren't
large, but ordnance deposited there may wash ashore, make fishing
hazardous, or affect unique ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Unfortunately, there is no accurate estimate of the extent of ordnance
contamination in the U.S. The Defense Department is (too) slowly
generating an inventory. With documented definitions and methodology,
that inventory should give all of us the opportunity to accept or
question its number. The biggest problem, in generating an inventory of
closed, transferred, and transferring ranges, is determining whether
former ranges on active facilities are closed (permanently) or
(temporarily) inactive. If I recall correctly, the most important issue
raised by the EPA documents referenced in the PEER press release was the
contention by U.S. EPA personnel that military officials were minimizing
their cleanup requirements by improperly calling closed ranges inactive.

Finally, I think everyone agrees that there is a need to screen the vast
areas of range facilities to determine which are likely to contain
unexploded or buried ordnance. The military has demonstrated airborne
surveillance techniques that work effectively on most terrains, but it
is not routinely making use of the technology. The problem may be that
airborne surveillance is a regional project that is cost-effective only
when multiple installations are addressed at once, but the contracting
system for ordnance response is focused on solving problems one facility
at a time.


ramcnally@nasw.org wrote:
> Lenny Ð
> Thanks for your expertise on evaluating this report.
> Another number in that story leapt out at me: groundwater and soil
> contamination from UXO on 30 to 40 million acres, an area approximately the
> size of Florida.  That seems way high, given that 25 million acres is
> conventionally said to be the amount of U.S. territory controlled by the
> military.  Is there any accurate estimate of the amount of UXO-contaminated
> land and water?  And does anybody have an idea of how the 16,000 inactive
> test ranges number got into that EPA briefing paper posted on the PEER Web
> site?
> Thanks.
> Bob McNally
> **********************************************************
> Robert Aquinas McNally, Writer & Editor
> 1245 Pine Creek Way, #J
> Concord, CA  94520  USA
> (925) 674-1520  voice & fax
> ramcnally@nasw.org
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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