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EPA Completes Superfund Removal of Buried WWII Ordinance in Undeveloped Area of Little Valley in Washington Township

Release Date: 06/13/2002
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(#020060) NEW YORK, N.Y. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed the removal and disposal of the buried bombs, fuzes and related material from World War II it uncovered at the 70- acre Washington Township Ordnance site in Little Valley, Morris County, New Jersey. The site, near the intersection of Fairmount Road and Parker Road, was operated by United Wallpaper Factories Incorporated for the manufacture of incendiary bombs during World War II. Unused and/or discarded ordnance and associated materials were buried at the site and several hundred burned bomb canisters and fuzes have been found there over the years.

“The potential for finding live, unexploded bombs and/or fuzes triggered our action to protect public health and safety,” EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny stated. “We found and disposed of more ordnance than we suspected was there.”

Fort Monmouth ordnance experts and the US Army Corps of Engineers personnel visually inspected the site in the summer of 2000, in response to a request from Morris County Emergency Services, and did not find ordnance that contained explosives. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) alerted EPA, which investigated the site in 2000 using geophysical techniques to survey the area for metal anomalies related to ordnance items. EPA began the cleanup of the site late last year under its federal Superfund authority. During its operations, EPA restricted public access to the site, which was frequented by hunters, hikers, dirt- bike riders and equestrians.

EPA worked closely with local authorities throughout the investigation and cleanup effort. “We thank everyone involved for their support and assistance. We also appreciate the cooperation of local residents and officials during this very successful operation,” Ms. Kenny said. The project cost a total of $1.8 million, which was financed by the federal Superfund Trust.

The site consists of an active chemical manufacturer, a residence, and undeveloped land. Discarded ordnance was identified at all three properties; however, the greatest concentration of ordnance was in remote locations on the parcel of undeveloped land, mostly open fields and woodlands.

EPA utilized the services of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) specialists to address the buried ordnance at the site. The work included identifying, removing, and disposing of any ordnance-type material. EPA divided the site into a number of grids, each measuring exactly 100' X 100'. The surface of each grid was inspected and then specialized equipment was used to identify where the ordnance materials were buried. UXO specialists manually excavated areas suspected of containing buried ordnance. Trenches and burial pits containing a large quantity of ordnance items were discovered in the wooded undeveloped area of the site. Soil was excavated from these trenches and pits and screened to recover fuzes and bombs. Any ordnance material discovered on the surface or buried below was removed and secured on-site for detonation and/or disposal.

The specialty firm detonated any UXO on the site property rather than attempt to remove live shells. Access to the site was carefully controlled and the detonations were performed under very secure conditions. Stringent health and safety protocols were in place to eliminate any health and safety issues for the specialists posed by the ordnance. Inert ordnance materials were recycled as ordnance related scrap at appropriate off-site facilities.

The total number of ordnance items recovered included: 22,766 empty M-69 bomb casings, over 650,000 inert fuzes, 4 inert M-2 rockets, 267 live M-69 bombs, 99 M-50 live bombs, 730 live fuzes and 31 M-1 fuze primers. All of the live ordnance found, a total of 1,127 UXO items, were destroyed in a series of 19 detonations. Following the removal of ordnance material, the area was reevaluated to ensure that a major threat to the public health and safety has been addressed. All areas disturbed during the investigation and cleanup work were restored.

EPA is advising the owners to use caution during any excavation activity at their properties in the event that some small amounts of ordnance may remain at the site.

The NJDEP is conducting its own investigation of the site to address soil and ground water contamination from several chemical and industrial facilities that operated there after bomb manufacturing stopped at the end of WWII.