2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 9 Jun 2003 14:10:50 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Danger Underfoot
By Erin Middlewood
Sunday, June 8, 2003
Danger underfoot: Unexploded munitions at Camp Bonneville fuel debate
over its suitability to be a park

PROEBSTEL -- Christine Sutherland grew up watching troops and tanks
barreling into Camp Bonneville.

"It was a way of life here -- the booms, the explosions, the men,"
Sutherland recalls. "It was exciting."

Now that she's raising her family in the same rural area north of Camas,
the mother of two sees it differently.

Sutherland worries about what the U.S. Army left behind when it closed
the training camp in 1995, and who will find it.

Under plans for the Army to turn the land over to Clark County for a
regional park, the place where soldiers trained to kill may soon become
a place where families go to frolic.

For 80 years, soldiers fired rockets, grenades and other munitions into
the hillside at the 3,840-acre base. Some of that artillery didn't blow
up. It awaits the slightest disturbance by a tent spike or a curious
child's hand to explode.

"Today I'm not confident it will be truly a safe park under the
direction it's going," Sutherland said. "I just wouldn't let my children
go there."

Experts say there's no assurance a cleanup effort would get rid of all
of the hazards. What's known as UXO -- unexploded ordnance -- has killed
at least 67 civilians in other places around the country, in some
instances years after the military left. Sutherland and others fear
similar accidents could happen here.

Even if left undisturbed, the munitions can be dangerous because they
corrode and leak toxic chemicals. Fuel, pesticides, solvents and other
hazardous waste also pollute the wooded acreage.

After years of work, the Army and environmental regulators still don't
know the extent of pollution at Camp Bonneville. It's possible they
won't have that answer before the Army transfers the base to Clark
County, which may happen as early as October.

Though the county would be bound by a cleanup order issued to the Army
by the state Department of Ecology in February, the Army would put up
the money. The Army also pledges to pay for a yet-undetermined level of
liability and cost-overrun insurance.

Army and county officials say those safeguards will protect Clark County
taxpayers from a multimillion-dollar tab.

Sutherland and others on an advisory board overseeing Camp Bonneville's
restoration are skeptical.

"As it stands," said Ian Ray, a neighbor and an advisory board member,
"I wouldn't get into any deals."

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