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Cleanup will force some to relocate

July 24, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

About 100 families living in apartments on the former Fort Ritchie Army base will have to move as work on the base's unexploded ordnance cleanup continues, Bill Hofmann, base realignment and closure environmental coordinator, said Tuesday.

The residents would not have had to move under the original plans for the cleanup. But the size of the area being examined for live rounds was increased by 38 acres after a finding last year, Hofmann said.

The apartments are built on top of fill material that was taken from the base of a mountain that was a former target of a shooting range, Hofmann said.

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Fill material examined elsewhere on the base contained unexploded ordnance so it was decided to examine the fill material under the housing as well, he said.

The families were notified last fall that they will have to move, but they have not yet been told when they must vacate the premises, Hofmann said. The families are in no danger, he said.

The 38-acre section that includes the apartments will be examined next summer, Hofmann said. The cleanup of that area will take about three months, during which time the property must be vacated as a precautionary measure, he said.

Residents of the apartments rent them from PenMar Development Corp.

The residents may be able to move to presently unavailable apartments elsewhere on the base, PenMar Board Chairman Brett Wilson said.

Those apartments presently are not available for use because they are in the area being examined for the presence of unexploded ordnance. That part of the area is hoped to be cleared for use by next summer, he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Army contracted with IT Group of Edgewood, Md., to perform the cleanup work on the 638-acre base.

About 90 percent of the area has been cleared since work began in June 2001, Hofmann said. He expects work on the original 208 acres to be finished this fall.

Crews have been using metal detectors to find explosives on the base and then dig up the material by hand or with machines. Live rounds that are found are exploded and disposed of, Hofmann said.

Cleanup work has unearthed more than 80,000 metallic items, including more than 280 live rounds. Workers digging up the ground on the property have found mostly nails, pipes, construction debris and magnetic rocks, Hofmann said.

The National Guard, and then the Army, used the post from 1926 through the 1950s for military munitions training. During World War II, Fort Ritchie was used as the Army War Department Military Intelligence Training Center.

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