“Science-based characterization of military training ranges and management for the environmental impacts of live-fire training will lead to sustainable training and protect governments from future environmental liabilities and the loss of critical training assets.”
- NATO on the Cooperative Demonstration of Technology Programme’s Military Range Characterization Training Activity
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory Research Mechanical Engineer Michael “Mike” Walsh recently organized a NATO Cooperative Demonstration of Technology training activity on Military Range Characterization at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.
Military live-fire training ranges are necessary to prepare troops for combat and to maintain high levels of readiness. However, residues from a wide variety of munitions used for training can be toxic to humans and the environment, thereby risking the closing of ranges.
“NATO is interested in range sustainability because they have only a limited number of facilities,” said Walsh. “With the increase in problems on the eastern border of Europe, NATO-sponsored training is becoming more involved and more intensive. The NATO Science and Technology Organization is looking for ways to support keeping training ranges open for joint military campaigns. The STO is especially interested in Eastern European countries, which have limited funding and are starting range sustainment programs from scratch. Through the NATO Collaboration Support Office, the STO is making it possible for these countries to do the right thing when cleaning up their military lands, which could potentially mean investing billions of dollars in the region.”
The Massachusetts Military Reservation serves as an example of how undetected munition residues were able to contaminate the groundwater affecting both the facility and the surrounding communities.
At the MMR, soil samples were collected using established sampling methods resulting in no detectable levels of munition residues. Even after the discovery of groundwater contamination, additional samples were taken and researchers were still unable to narrow the source of contamination. The MMR covers 22,000 acres and has reportedly cost an estimated $1.5 billion to clean up.
“There are two separate but combined situations here,” said Walsh. “There is range sustainability and munitions efficiency. They are tied together but can also be considered differently by different people such as munitions developers and environmentalists.”
Researchers from CRREL and Envirostat Inc. developed the Multi-Increment Sampling technique to more accurately determine the levels of hazardous compounds in range soils.
The initial sampling method used at the MMR site was to take a few discrete soil samples. This method was later found ineffective because separate and distinct (discrete) samples do not reflect the varied distribution and composition of explosive and propellant residues in soils. Samples using the MIS method resulted in a more representative concentration value for the energetic compounds in the area.
The recent NATO-sponsored training activity hosted approximately 35 individuals, representing 17 countries, including 24 students from 16 countries, and the director of the NATO Science and Technology Organization’s Collaborative Support Office. Both Mike Walsh and his newly retired spouse, Marianne, a CRREL research chemist (funded by NATO), served as instructors.
The week-long training included a classroom day for briefings on sampling theory and its application to the characterization of training ranges; two days were spent in the field learning more about how to sample and collect samples and then putting into practice; and a day was spent in the lab day dedicated to preparing samples using a puck grinder and on analytical methods for explosives, of which both techniques were developed at CRREL. The final morning was spent discussing case studies employing the methods taught during the CDT.
In the field, members were trained on the CRREL-devised multi-increment sampling method, a technique to more accurately determine the levels of hazardous compounds in soils, as well as the instruction on the use of the CRREL Multi-Increment Sampling Tool, a device designed to facilitate multi-increment sample collection.
The information produced from MIS sampling is useful in determining contaminant levels and can be input into models that predict the likelihood that these contaminants will dissolve and transport to groundwater. And it also builds environmental awareness, which in turn helps to keep residents safe from exposure and potentially saving billions in environmental clean-up.
For additional Information on this program please see RELATED ITEMS above
- ERDC/CRREL TR-07-10, Protocols for Collection of Surface Soil Samples at Military Training and Testing Ranges for the Characterization of Energetic Munitions Constituents
- CRREL’s Multi-Increment Sampling Tool
- EnviroStat, Inc. video