National Guard To Examine Firing Ranges For Contaminants

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(Host) Contractors for the Army National Guard will be in Vermont this fall, examining old military firing ranges for lead and other contaminants.

As VPR’s Susan Keese reports, some of the sites are so old, even the Vermont Guard wasn’t aware of them.

(Keese) The inspection is a part of the defense department’s response to a mandate from Congress to clean up all military sites.

This part of the investigation requires the National Guard to address potential hazards and contamination on non-federal property that was used for military training.

Nationwide, more than 400 such sites have been found.  Vermont has 15.

Lee Ann Banks is the environmental compliance manager for the Vermont Army Guard.

(Banks) "They’re all over the state. There’s quite a few down in the Bellows Falls Brattleboro area. There’s some in the middle – Rutland, Shoreham, Shrewsbury Area."

(Keese) Banks says the oldest site dates back to 1894.

(Banks) "It’s down in Brattleboro. It was an artillery range and it was called Camp Governor Holbrook. And it was only used for a week, apparently, for an annual training period, from August 13, through the 18th, 1894."

(Keese) In 1896, Guardsmen trained in Chittenden County at a site called Camp Colonel Webb.

(Banks) "And they’ve got some records that some canon balls were fired at Rock Dunder, which is out in the middle of Lake Champlain."

(Keese) The most recent site is a gravel pit in Highgate that was last used ten years ago for maneuvers and small arms shooting.

Banks says the contractors hired to do the study visited Vermont in 2008.

(Banks) "They spent a lot of time going to local libraries, and visiting with us here at the guard, and finding out where we trained, finding documentation of that. But some of these we didn’t know about like the really old ones."

(Keese) The next step, which begins in September, is an onsite inspection of the 15 sites. Contractors will begin by testing soil samples for polluting heavy metals: copper, antimony, lead.

They’ll also search for unexploded ammunition.

(Banks) "We don’t really expect to find any out there but that’s one of the things they’re going to be keeping an eye out for."

(Keese) Banks also thinks it’s unlikely that investigators will find serious pollution problems. Many of the sites were used only briefly.

But she adds that at this point, no one really knows what might turn up.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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