Fort cleanup ends for the year

November 29, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

CASCADE - A contractor turned up about 107,000 metallic items while checking more than 200 acres on the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base for unexploded ordnance, Bill Hofmann, the Army Base Realignment and Closure environmental coordinator, said Monday.

Cleanup work began in June 2001 and wrapped up for the year last week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Army contracted with an Edgewood, Md., company to handle the cleanup work on 218 acres of the 638-acre base.

Crews used metal detectors in the effort to find explosives. Detected items were dug up by hand or with machines. The 357 live rounds that were found were exploded and disposed of, Hofmann said.


Most of the metallic items found were nonexplosive, and included nails, pipes, rebar, construction debris and magnetic rocks, he said.

Cleanup work eventually will be undertaken on an additional 26 acres, a step that will displace about 100 families who live in apartments on the base.

Residents of the apartments rent from PenMar Development Corp.

The date on which that work will begin has not been determined because it will be affected by a court case that Role Models Academy filed against the Army.

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. He said the residents are in no danger.

Crews cleared 12 of the 38 acres this month, Hofmann said. The 12 acres are adjacent to the housing.

The apartments are built on top of fill material taken from the base of a mountain that at one time was used as a target for a shooting range, Hofmann said.

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

Tim Helser, who lives less than a mile from the base, said an explosion on the base Nov. 21 caused damage to his house and he has filed an insurance claim.

The blast was caused by the Army blowing up nonexplosive items, including six Stokes mortars, three rockets, two flare bodies and one 37 mm projectile found on the property, Hofmann said.

Helser, who said he was home wat the time, said the blast shook his house, knocked items to the ground and caused a crack in the house.

Hofmann said Helser's complaint is the only one of which he was aware.

The blast was smaller than usual, but may have sounded louder than normal because of low cloud cover that day, Hofmann said.

The Army would not comment on Helser's insurance claim, 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 an Army War Department Military Intelligence Training Center.

The Army has scheduled a public meeting for Dec. 12, at 7 p.m., to update people on the project. The meeting is at the Cascade American Legion.

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