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More than 30,000 pounds of munitions debris found at former Camp Breckinridge

Published June 10, 2019

Located in western Kentucky, 30 miles south of Evansville, Indiana, Camp Breckinridge was once used for infantry housing, combat training and medical care.

It also served as a prisoner of war camp for more than 3,000 German enlisted soldiers from 1943 to 1946. Throughout the 1950s, Camp Breckinridge opened for troop training related to a peacetime draft and the Korean War, followed by annual field training support for summer National Guard troops, Reserve Soldiers and Army Units Special Field Training. 

“Training on this site was conducted with small arms, hand grenades, mortars and artillery,” said Clayton Hayes, project manager. “The camp was declared excess in 1962, and the land was disposed of over the following years.”

Due to past military training operations, numerous Munitions and Explosives of Concern (MEC) were found on the site, leading to the development of the project.
According to Hayes, an estimated 1,200 MEC have been found at Camp Breckinridge, along with more than 30,000 pounds of munitions debris (MD). The majority of the items found range from small hand grenades, mortars (60mm and 81mm), to large 105mm projectiles. 

Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractor are near the end of the field work in the Remedial Investigation phase. However, due to the extensive amounts of munitions found, a time critical removal action (TCRA) is underway in efforts to clean up certain areas with high concentrated amounts of MEC, Hayes said. 

As stated by Hayes, the TCRA permitted additional funding for the removal/disposal action during the RI phase. As a result more resources were placed in the field to eradicate and dispose of the munitions while the RI phase is currently in progress – reducing the wait time by two or more years to start the removal action.

“The significant impact of this step greatly reduces the risk for the public to come in contact with MEC,” Hayes said. 

One of the key aspects of projects of this nature is safety.

According to Hayes, this project is of particular importance to the Corps of Engineers because it carries a high risk score – for safety reasons. It is also ranked as one of the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection’s top projects.

“For environmental stewardship, it’s not good to leave contamination, especially where the public can directly be in contact with it,” Hayes said. “However, to the area residents, the project may not be so important, since they have been dealing with the munitions for many years and may not consider it as much of a threat. Fortunately, we’re not aware of any casualties or accidents associated with the munitions there.”

Even though some residents may be comfortable with the munitions, it is still vital to recognize when one may have encountered a munition; retreat – do not touch, move or disturb it but leave the area the way it was found, and report the siting – call 911 and immediately notify law enforcement.

Progress and success of the project stem on partnership. 

“Partnering among the many people and stakeholders (both internally and externally), acting as one cohesive team has been excellent,” Hayes said. “The coordination of activities has been very smooth, and we have great teams of experienced professionals in the UXO (unexploded ordnance) field who put safety first, and orchestrate the work very efficiently.” 

There is still more work to be done.

The current contract consists of the RI/Feasibility Study phase, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2020. However, subsequent phases of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA) process may take several years to complete. The total estimated cost to complete the project is approximately $60 million.

 “We still have much to do,” Hayes said. “(We) look forward to the successful completion of this work.”

The Camp Breckinridge Project Development team consists of Clayton Hayes, project manager; Nick Stolte, project engineer/contracting officer’s representative; and Jay Trumble, project engineer/technical manager.