A partnership among federal agencies and contractors has cleared property of explosives at a housing project at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.
The Arsenal contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, after discovering a 40 mm grenade during a preliminary sweep within a housing development.
“Since it is a housing area, we decided to do a full clearance of the site to a depth of two feet,” said Nicholas Stolte, project manager for the Military Munitions Design Center, Huntsville, Alabama, adding safety was a priority for the removal. “The 40 mms are one of the most sensitive unexploded ordnance items that we encounter. The slightest movement can cause a detonation.”
The Army Environmental Command requested the Corps to execute a removal action with the objective to have the 4.12 acres cleared by Dec. 23, 2015. The Corps received funds Oct. 1 and awarded the contract by Nov. 19. To facilitate the project schedule, the Huntsville Design Center prepared the Explosive Safety Submission, known as an ESS, and staffed it for signature by the Department of Defense Explosive Safety Board in Washington, D.C., while the team worked on the procurement. HydroGeoLogic, Inc., the contractor, prepared work and safety plans. The team held biweekly project delivery team conference calls in the first two weeks of December and approved the contractor to perform the removal action Dec. 11 with approved work plans and ESS.
“The process normally takes three to four months, but all parties worked together to meet the client’s objective,” said Brooks Evens, a Louisville District geologist and technical manager.
The team cleared more than four acres, investigated more than 5,300 metal objects referred to as anomalies, and safely disposed of two M406 40 mm high explosive grenades. The contractor completed the removal action 32 days ahead of the 60-day required work schedule starting Nov. 23 with completion Dec. 21, 2015.
The Louisville District project team; Military Munitions Design Center representatives from the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, with support from the Baltimore District MMDC; AEC; Rock Island Arsenal; and HydroGeoLogic, Inc., worked in unison to detect and remove the ordnance.
The removal required coordination with the installation to close one of the installation’s primary roadways and evacuate non-essential personnel from adjacent buildings. Wintry weather conditions, frozen ground, underground utilities and safety requirements served as some of the obstacles the team overcame leading to a successful removal with no health or safety incidents.
The work minimized impacts to the installation, opened the road earlier than scheduled and garnered the contractor the 2015 Excellence Award for Environmental Services from the Society of American Engineers, Kentuckiana Post.
“We were able to accomplish the removal for the customer and the Army,” said Evens. He added, knowing the importance of minimizing impacts to Rock Island Arsenal, everyone responded immediately to what was needed to accomplish the mission.
It is not uncommon for an installation to have unexploded ordnance, Evens said, but it is unknown why munitions hid below the surface at the Army Housing Site 2 when historical records did not document any munitions-related activity. One theory is that soil containing the grenades was brought in from an outside location as fill material.