Bomb Shell

While far from complete, the cleanup of explosives and other munitions at Fort Ord will come to a halt at the end of March due to insufficient funding from the Pentagon, according to William Collins, the environmental coordinator of the military’s local Base Realignment and Closure office.

With a freeze in the removal of dangerous materials left behind when Fort Ord closed in 1994 comes an indefinite delay in the transfer of land designated for recreation. The military has already transferred thousands of acres where there are now hiking trails, a university, housing developments and other uses.

But about 1,500 more acres, located in the Fort Ord National Monument, still need to be combed for rockets, grenades, practice land mines and pyrotechnics, according to Collins. The cleanup process depends on the terrain, weather, what kind of bombs troops used and intended future use of each particular area. But before the effects of 80 years of military training can be undone, work crews have to remove vegetation with masticators, manual cutting and prescribed burns. The process could take another eight to 10 years.

The work can’t start until more money to hire a munitions removal contractor arrives. Collins anticipates new funding in 2022, but there’s no decision or budget allocation for the future.

The current contractor is Atlanta-based Kemron Environmental Services. In 2014, the Pentagon awarded Kemron an $89 million contract to deal with a portion of the explosives and hazardous and toxic waste at the former Fort Ord. The contract ends on March 31. It will not be renewed now due to “funding constraints,” Collins says. He has been told to anticipate a new contract in 2022, “but there is no guarantee.”

“The Army’s remaining cleanup responsibilities at Fort Ord,” Collins adds, “are funded to continue groundwater cleanup, landfill maintenance, habitat management and munitions site security and land use control implementation – without disruption.”

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Asaf Shalev is a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly. He covers higher education, the military, the environment, public lands and the geographic areas of Seaside, Monterey, Sand City, Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

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