2005 CPEO Military List Archive

From: lsiegel@cpeo.org
Date: 13 Sep 2005 05:47:38 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Camp Bonneville neighborhood
[Please excuse the duplicate posting. - LS]

The following statement about the remediation of former Camp Bonneville,
Washington, is from the Rosemere Neighborhood Association newsletter.
For the original go to 

Citizens Object to County's Plan to Transform Camp Bonneville into a
Public Park

September 10, 2005

On September 8, 2005, members of the general public attended an open
house hosted by the Washington State Department of Ecology to review the
Draft Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) for Camp
Bonneville. This document, created by the Army, reveals the Army's
proposal for limited cleanup of the property, which Clark County plans
to develop into a regional public park. Attendees included Marc Boldt
(Clark County Commissioner), Bronson Potter (Clark County Prosecuting
Attorney), Glynn Ryan (Army's Head of Base Realignment and Closure from
Atlanta), Tom Mielke (Candidate for Clark County Commissioner), Charlie
Stemper (Candidate for Mayor of Vancouver), staff from the Clark County
Parks Department and the State Department of Ecology, members of the
Camp Bonneville Restoration Advisory Board, representatives from the
Cowlitz Tribe, JD White & Associates, Trust for Public Lands, PBS
Environmental, bomb experts, and various concerned citizens, among
others. The meeting room at Marshall House was crowded with attendees. 

The Department of Ecology presented the Draft study and then fielded a
battery of questions brought forward by concerned citizens, including
those who live adjacent to Camp Bonneville. Residents who live in
expensive homes on the northern perimeter of the Camp complained that
their property values have decreased due to proximity to unexploded
ordinance (UXO) including missiles, rockets, grenades, etc. These
residents also complain that they were never informed about the
potential hazards from the Camp and that a perimeter fence has been
missing from the Camp for many years. Residents of the Autumn Hills and
Summer Hills neighborhoods (on the northern perimeter of the Camp) have
been warned not to dig on their property until it has been checked for
the presence of explosives caused by target practice sessions held at
the Camp for more than sixty years. The County has not held a public
meeting to address these concerns even though Commissioner Boldt
previously agreed to conduct such a forum. 

Many citizens commented that the draft study was unacceptable, and plan
to offer written public comment. Barry Rogowski from the Department of
Ecology commented that his agency, which must approve any land deal the
Army makes for cleanup and transfer of the property, also finds elements
of the cleanup plan to be unacceptable. The plan does not indicate
remedial action for the location of chemical warfare agents, PCB's, or
other known chemical hazards, and also includes plans to leave a vast
quantity of explosives within the "Central Impact Area," a 65 acre area
at the center of the park where Howitzer missiles were targeted. The
Army proposes to merely fence off this area and post warning signs, even
though it will be situated in the midst of a public park and wildlife
refuge that includes trails for horseback riding, camping, shooting
ranges, and an odd mixture of other public uses. Under the proposed
clean-up plan, a large portion of Camp Bonneville property will never be
assessed for explosives and will never experience clean-up efforts. The
explanation given is that the probability of UXO existing in these areas
is lower, but no one can say that these areas are completely void of
explosives. This decision was based on documents from Army archives,
even though various historical documents are known to be erroneous or

Some citizens commented that the County has declared the current re-use
and clean-up plan to be an acceptable risk for the public. The Growth
Management Act requires the county to create parks based on the growing
population. The County has been clamoring to grab Camp Bonneville for
many years, even to the point of agreeing to receive the property under
the "dirty transfer" without adequate cleanup. The question remains --
will the state's requirement for public park space trump public health
and safety? Or, should the public be outraged and demand their parks to
be completely safe and clean? 

The current re-use plan, including documents created by JD White &
Associates from 2003, indicates the position of a wastewater treatment
facility within the proposed park area, which was never before mentioned
or made subject of public meetings. It seems highly irregular to place a
wastewater facility in this complex, another concern for nearby

A few weeks ago, a member of the Restoration Advisory Board questioned
Vancouver City Council about their interests in Camp Bonneville. Mayor
Pollard vehemently denied that the city had any involvement or interest
in Camp Bonneville, yet the RI/FS repeatedly identifies the City of
Vancouver as a participant in the re-use plan under a section tabbed
"Institutional Control Alternatives." An explanation for this
discrepancy is greatly needed to ensure that the City of Vancouver (and
the taxpayers) will not become financially liable for this "dirty
transfer" of contaminated property. Mayor Pollard was previously the
commander for the Camp Bonneville facility during his tenure with the
army, during which time he oversaw the burial of confiscated fireworks
in pits that later contributed to a toxic groundwater plume of ammonium
perchlorate. The cleanup of these pits cost more than $5 million, and
about 15 feet of contaminated solid was removed from landfill four and
trucked to a toxic waste facility in Oregon. It will take several years
to determine if the toxic groundwater plume has been contained, or if it
will travel toward Lacamas Creek or private groundwater wells that
belong to nearby residents. 

The Trust for Public Lands, a non-profit entity that works on
transferred properties all over the country, has been engaged by the
County to aid in developing a nature conservancy plan that includes
clean-up of the property. The Trust for Public Lands hopes to arrange
for an agreed upon re-use and clean-up plan that the Department of
Ecology can approve. An agreement would be very lucrative to the Trust
for Public Lands, as it will receive a commission based on the overall
cost of clean-up. The proposed estimate is currently at $16.8 million, a
sum inadequate to fully address the dangers at the camp. However,
according to Glynn Ryan, the Army's expert on property transfers, that
number could double or even escalate to $100 million. Citizens have
voiced concerns that the Trust's interest in the project is founded more
on monetary gain rather than adequate clean-up and public safety.
However, a representative for the Trust explained that it will only
participate in the project if an adequate clean-up is planned, and that
the Trust is squarely in support of the Department of Ecology's position
that a more comprehensive clean-up effort is required than what is
outlined in the RI/FS. If an agreement cannot be reached, the process
starts all over and a new re-use plan will have to be created. 

Concerned citizens clearly stated that a public park should not be
planned around explosives, chemical residues, and groundwater
contamination because of the risk to public health and safety, and that
the County should find alternate uses for the property or refuse it all
together. The Department of Ecology stated that the Army will be liable
for any injury or death that may occur from explosives on the property.
Clark County residents have been known to find, handle and remove
UXO-related items from the Camp. The public must be reminded that these
types of military explosives have a 35-80 foot "death zone," meaning
that anyone within that distance of a device that explodes could be killed.

The Public Comment Period will be open until October 15th, 2005. Written
comments may be submitted to: Ben Forseon, Project Manager Washington
State Department of Ecology Box 47600 Olympia, WA 98504-7600 (360)
407-7227 bfor461@ecy.wa.gov 


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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