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FUDS Frequently Asked Questions

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The Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) Program cleans up environmental contamination at properties formerly owned, leased, possessed, or used by the military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, or other Defense agencies).  The Army is the Department of Defense executive agent for FUDS, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for carrying out the program.

The Department of Defense is responsible for cleaning up DoD-generated contamination on FUDS properties. The Army oversees the program for DoD and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the cleanup at these properties. Actual cleanup is accomplished by Corps geographic districts. Cleanup is performed in consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental and health offices.

Although the FUDS program is part of the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) and cleans up properties in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) as amended and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan (NCP), it differs from the environmental cleanup program at active military installations in several ways. The Department of Defense no longer owns FUDS properties as it does at active installations, nor does it have a long-term presence. There is no installation commander per se at a FUDS property, although the commander of the Corps of Engineers District doing the cleanup work serves as a de factor installation commander. The Defense Department also doesn’t control the land use of FUDS properties. The FUDS program cleans up only DoD-generated eligible contamination, which occurred before the transfer of the property to private owners or federal, state or local governments. The FUDS program also does not certify that the property is clean, particularly where contamination may be present as the result of actions of parties other than DoD.

The FUDS program is not part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program, nor is it part of the DoD Installation Restoration Program or the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program.

What kinds of projects are found at FUDS properties?
  • Hazardous, toxic and radioactive waste (HTRW);
  • Building demolition and/or debris removal (BD/DR);
  • Military munitions response program (MMRP);
  • Containerized hazardous, toxic and radioactive waste (CON/HTRW), such as underground storage tanks; and,
  • Principal responsible party actions (PRP), which involves defense of government interests or cost recovery on behalf of the government associated with CERCLA contamination requiring cleanup on a FUDS property.

No, the program covers property that was once used by any military service prior to October 1986, when the program was established.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submits a FUDS budget recommendation to the Department of Army, which submits it to the Department of Defense for consideration as part of the Defense Department’s annual budget proposal presented by the President to Congress.

The FUDS inventory, which includes all potential formerly used defense sites across the country, stands at almost 10,000 potential properties.  The vast majority of the properties do not require cleanup, with only about 2,700 properties requiring some type of cleanup.

Our cleanup work is prioritized by using a risk management approach, those properties posing the highest and most imminent risk to human health, safety and the environment are addressed first.  DoD focuses on actions that reduce risks in the short-term and then addresses longer-term risk management actions. 

For the Installation Restoration Program (IRP) that deal with hazardous waste sites, sites are categorized as High, Medium, or Low relative risk, based on the degree of contamination, whether the contamination is migrating, and whether a receptor is available. 

For the Military Munitions Response Program (MMRP) that deals with munitions and explosives of concern (MEC), DoD developed a Munitions Response Site Prioritization Protocol (MRSPP) in conjunction with EPA and many other stakeholders.  Sites are scored based on types of munitions or constituents at the site, receptors, and the likelihood that receptors will come in contact with MEC.

As funds become available to clean up IRP and MMRP sites, other factors may affect the sequence in which work is scheduled.  Concerns by stakeholders are certainly factors that could influence a decision maker, moving one site ahead of another as DoD employs its risk management approach.

Remember, these properties are no longer controlled by the Department of Defense and range from privately owned businesses and private homes to national parks.

Our estimates are that some sites could take until 2085 or beyond.  Without inflation, the FUDS program cleanup cost is estimated to be almost $14 billion, with annual funding to the Corps averaging about $280 million a year.

The cleanup process is clearly laid out in regulations and law.  It is a multi-step process with many community, state and federal partners that involves identification, investigation, clean up and, in some cases, long-term maintenance.  Extracting contaminants from the environment, soil or groundwater, can be very complicated. Depending on the type of site, population, topography, community interests, etc., there can be many factors to consider and integrate into a final agreed upon solution.  There are many properties within the FUDS program and a limited budget, so our work must be prioritized and budgeted for over time.

During the past several decades our Nation has come to realize the link between protecting our environment and protecting the health and well being of its citizens.  Through the passage of numerous laws, all of us are required to not only clean up our former activities, but to prevent pollution in the future.  The FUDS program addresses the requirement under law to correct our past actions.  The Department of Defense is committed to and takes responsibility for correcting environmental damage caused by its past activities.

No, the Base Realignment and Closure program is a separate program.  The FUDS program only encompasses those properties that left DoD control prior to October 1986.  The BRAC program encompasses military installations identified for closure or realignment in a series of special legislation since 1988.

The Corps does its cleanup work at FUDS properties on a prioritized basis – the highest risk sites are cleaned first. The Corps uses ratings of relative risk to human health, human safety and the environment for its projects, along with other management factors, such as stakeholder concerns, in prioritizing its projects. The Army makes the decision as to which sites are cleaned up first, considering input from regulators and other stakeholders. All Corps work is based on a Department of the Army approved workplan developed at the beginning of each fiscal year.

There is strong interest within the Department of Defense and the Army to not allow environmental contamination to be an impediment to local developers. It is the DoD and FUDS program policy that locally approved planned land use is considered in the final remedy selection process. However, once a final remedy is selected and finalized, if the land use changes and additional cleanup is required to meet the needs of the new land use requirement, then that responsibility rests with the local landowner.

The FUDS program works with our community, state, tribal and federal partners to select the proper course of action, which may include number of methods to protect the public from hazards such as public awareness/education campaigns to warn the public about possible hazards and precautions they should take. Often there are land-use restrictions that were written into deeds when the property was transferred. The Corps also uses fencing and signage, where appropriate, to warn the public of possible hazards. The goal is to either remove the danger itself or to keep people away from the danger until a final remedy can be implemented.

You can go to the FUDS Web site – www.fuds.mil   You also can contact your local Corps of Engineers district office.

Previous military ownership is usually identified in a title search. Further historical information may be found in other sources such as the local library, county records or government archives. Another resource may well be older residents who live in an area. You also can contact the closest Corps of Engineers District office to your property and give them the location. You can also check out the Corps FUDS Inventory for or a listing of FUDS properties in your state and county.

The Corps has made extensive efforts to develop its current FUDS inventory based on historical records, military service, stakeholder and regulator input, and other sources. As additional cleanup projects occur, potential new FUDS properties are often identified. The Corps may add between 50 and 100 new properties each year to the FUDS inventory.

While tremendous progress in technologies and techniques addressing environmental contamination have been made throughout the years, there is, as yet, no method that will provide a 100 percent certainty that all environmental concerns are discovered and can be completely addressed.

The Corps does everything it can to ensure that when its work is complete, human health and the environment are protected.  Independent regulatory agencies provide oversight to the Corps work, and the community is an important stakeholder in the process.  It should be noted that the Corps will return to a site to investigate information that may indicate that its work there is not yet complete.

There may be instances where a property has environmental concerns, which are the responsibility of other parties.  In those circumstances, the Corps may be limited by law to only spending taxpayer dollars to address the contamination caused by the Department of Defense.  Others may have to complete further environmental response actions at the property to address their responsibilities.

While there can be no guarantee, the Corps is committed to completing a protective professional response action with the highest confidence level that can reasonably be achieved.

The purpose of the Defense Environmental Restoration Program is to carry out a program of environmental restoration.  This generally would not include the purchase of property.  The property being addressed under the Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) Program has been released from Department of Defense service.  Although DoD may no longer be using it, the Corps has the responsibility to address environmental concerns that remain at the property as a result of DoD’s former activities. The FUDS Program meets this responsibility by cleaning up the contamination rather than purchasing the land again as the government would still have to clean the land.

The Corps is not authorized to study property values associated with FUDS properties, although in some cases, by cleaning up the contamination or investigating a property and finding that it does not require a response action, property values may benefit.

That depends entirely on a number of different factors. Because there can be several projects on a given property and because the program is designed to clean up the areas of greatest risk first, there may be times when several different projects on the same property are being funded during different fiscal years.  Another factor may be if there are several different parties that contributed to the contamination.

The Corps is responsible for cleaning up the sites under the direction of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense. There also are lead regulators for each FUDS property, either the state government or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Corps works with all parties, including the affected public, to ensure that the cleanups are being conducted in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

A right of entry is a legal form that gives the Corps and its contractors permission to go onto your property for specific purposes, such as testing or conducting clean up actions.  By signing this agreement, the landowner protects his/her rights and establishes the limits and responsibilities of the Corps for its actions.

If there is a known or suspected threat to human health or the environment, the matter may be turned over to a regulatory agency or the U.S. Department of Justice.  In such circumstances, it is very important to gain access to a property to assess the situation and preclude migration of contaminants that pose a threat to public health or may cause environmental damage.  The Corps makes every effort to work with the landowner so there is as little disruption as possible.

The first thing a property owner should do in that case would be to contact the Corps District office doing the work to see if something can be worked out. The right of entry is a legal agreement upon which the Corps and the landowner rely, and it’s important that as taxpayer dollars are spent, both parties live up to their agreement. The Corps is committed to trying to resolve these types of problems as quickly as possible.

Not necessarily. If the work to be performed is in an easily accessible area or if prior arrangements are made then it would not be necessary for the property owner or resident to be present.  However, if you want work done only when you are present, arrangements can be made. Sometimes, though, because of the nature of the work being done and for safety reasons, the Corps may require that a property owner or resident not be present.

If you find any item suspected of being ordnance, notify local law enforcement officials immediately. Note the location of the suspicious item, but DO NOT touch or disturb the suspicious item. Ordnance can be dangerous no matter how old it is or may appear to be. Always report ordnance finds to local law enforcement officials and do not touch it.  Practice the “3Rs”:  Recognize that any suspicious objects found in the area could be ordnance; Retreat, or carefully leave the area without touching or disturbing anything; and; Report immediately what was found and its approximate location to the police.

He should notify local law enforcement officials who will make the proper arrangements to dispose of the ordnance quickly and safely.

People who own a FUDS property on which ordnance has been identified should contact the Corps FUDS district point of contact prior to any excavation activity to ensure that appropriate safety precautions are taken.

Contact the nearest Corps of Engineers district office, which will put you in touch with people in the FUDS program. Any information you may have about a former site will help the Corps in evaluating the site and the need for cleanup.

Engineering and science have changed a great deal since many of these properties were turned over to private owners or the state, federal or local governments.  While these properties may have been “cleaned up” at the time of transfer, those methods may not be as sophisticated and protective of human health, safety and the environment as today’s methods. It is the Department of Defense’s responsibility to ensure that these formerly used properties are protective of human health, safety and the environment.

The Department of Defense takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that land it once owned, used or leased has been cleaned in such a way that is protective of human health, safety and the environment. The FUDS program is the vehicle to accomplish that mission.

The best place to start is with your nearby Corps of Engineers district. They can put you in touch with the FUDS Program Manager.

Cleanup projects are prioritized based on risk to human health and the environment on a national basis. In addition to national FUDS priorities, each geographic district and division prioritize their projects by taking into account overall risk and stakeholder concerns. Landowners should contact the FUDS geographic district to let the program and project managers know of future proposed or actual land use changes as they may impact overall district priorities.