Jun 8, 2007

Seal Island Bomb Range cleanup planners to meet Monday in Portland.


Seal Island is about 6 miles east of Matinicus Island. The mile-long W-shaped island had thousands of artillery shells and rockets rained upon it by trainee pilots during World War Two and the Korean war. About Seal Island

An interagency group meets Monday in Portland, using funds that
Congress recently appropriated for a federal/state joint effort to survey first this old marine gunnery range, home now to seals and seabirds, for unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other military wastes, and, using the Munitions Response Site Prioritization Protocol, decide what form of cleanup, if any, to do. About UXO. (DoD website) .

This protocol "is used to assess sites that may have unexploded ordnance, discarded military munitions or munitions constituents, and to assign priorities for any additional investigation or muni­tions removal that may be required."

According to MDEP military munitions cleanup specialist Ted Wolfe, a brush fire that swept the island several years ago cooked off most of the unexploded ordnance; wave action, however, continues to bring additional UXO ashore from the many bombs and rockets that fell short of the island during training exercises. Area fishing history is rich with stories of encounters with UXO around Seal Island.

Despite this identification of the island's nearshore waters as a continuing source of explosive ordnance, cleanup planning has focused solely on UXO wastes above the tideline; the depth of water around the island apparently makes removal of submerged UXO problematic.

A Plan Development Team will give a presentation to the June 11th meeting of state and federal agencies in Portland. According to project manager Sheila Holt of the Army Corps of Engineers, the planning process has moved along swiftly; there are high hopes that the evaluation and cleanup of Seal Island's miltary wastes will serve as a prototype for further marine gunnery range cleanups in other ocean locations around the United States.

The next assessment site will be Duck Island, Maine, Isles of Shoals; it, too was used as a naval aircraft bombing target area.

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