HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the nation to a standstill in March, a team of U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center munitions experts continued creating the plans and execution portion for the removal of “munitions and explosives of concern,” or MEC, on 1,277 acres located entirely inside Croft State Park near Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Work to clean up former Camp Croft, a Formerly Used Defense Site, began following the April 1 contract between U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District, and a joint venture of Weston Solutions, Inc., of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, and Zapata Inc., of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Huntsville Center’s Ordnance and Explosives Military Munitions Design Center manages and executes many of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Military Munitions Response Program projects for Formerly Used Defense Site and Base Realignment and Closure sites.
For the Camp Croft project, the Huntsville Center team wrote the performance work statement, issued the project request for proposal and managed the pre-award contractor site visit.
Huntsville Center’s Military Munitions Design Center has a unique technical capability in a very specialized subject area that is critical to other Corps of Engineers commands, said Drew Thompson, MMCX project manager for Croft site.
“We partner with local USACE districts, regulatory agencies, interested citizens and other stakeholders, to develop plans to oversee the execution of munitions removal.”
On the Camp Croft project, the Huntsville Center team is partnering closely with Savannah District, the Corps’ geographic district serving as the regional FUDS program manager.
The $36.5 million award includes a geophysical survey and removal of MEC inside Croft State Park, located on land used by the Army during World War II as a basic training center.
During its wartime use, the Army established live-fire ranges, impact areas for artillery, and trained soldiers to use small arms, anti-tank rockets, anti-aircraft artillery, and mortars at Camp Croft.
Following deactivation of the base in 1945, the federal government sold 7,000 of its 19,000 acres to the state of South Carolina for use as a park, which opened in 1949.
What makes the Camp Croft site notable is the FUDS remediation work is completed in close coordination with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism as well as the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Thompson said one of the challenges is the environmental impact of removing vegetation in a heavily-wooded state park known for equestrian, biking and hiking trails.
Vegetation removal has to be performed in order for the geophysical equipment to work properly, Thompson said.
“The work has to be performed in 100 to 200 acres at a time so that vegetation is not removed at the same time. Because certain species of trees grow throughout the park, we are meeting the state park’s vegetation removal requirements and leaving specified trees and vegetation untouched.”
Thompson said the contractor uses equipment to remove underbrush and other vegetation so workers can use geophysical equipment to detect potential unexploded ordnance below ground.
Daryl Donatelli, Huntsville Center Geophysicist for the Croft project, said Advanced Geophysical Classification technology is the primary equipment used to detect munitions in the ground at Camp Croft.
“The AGC equipment is mobilized over all accessible areas of the site with the positioning tracked by a centimeter accuracy positioning system -- either a commercially available Global Positioning System or Robotic Total Station,” Donatelli said.
After the data is processed, Donatelli said the field positions of detected munitions can be reacquired, flagged, and then the munition is removed.
“This method allows us to safely leave the vast majority of the non-hazardous metal in the ground; reducing the cost and time to perform munitions cleanup.”
Managing the FUDS program is a major undertaking, and progress ultimately depends on communication, partnerships, and community involvement.
As the Corps of Engineers is the executive agent for FUDS programs, reaching out to local communities to explain the processes involved in removing military munitions is one of the top priorities.
Although a state park may seem like an easier venue for MEC remediation work as opposed to a populated city, town or suburban area, the Camp Croft project has proven challenging. In 2019, Camp Croft became third priority on the national FUDS project list.
“The citizens that live in the area are concerned and involved and there have been restoration advisory board meetings with the Corps of Engineers and the community for more than 20 years,” Thompson said.
A Restoration Advisory Board, or RAB, is made up of interested community members who reflect the diverse interests of the local community, as well as representatives of state, local and federal agencies. A RAB is designed to serve as a focal point for the exchange of information between the Corps and the community.
Huntsville Center’s Environmental and Munitions Center of Expertise in Omaha, Nebraska, was also closely involved in the project.
The EM CX is using the Camp Croft site as a pilot program for the new Munitions Response Quality Assurance Project Plan process aimed at assisting districts in their initial meetings with regulators and stakeholders.
The MR-QAPP Toolkit introduces new terms, approaches, and QA/QC procedures applicable to Munitions Response projects.
Thompson said he’s pleased with the response from all parties involved in the Camp Croft project and looks forward to restoring the site safely and quickly with little impact on people wanting to visit the state park.
“We have worked hard to make this happen, even as the COVID-19 pandemic began. I thought it would impact the project, but we moved forward and Savannah District now has the contract in place and work is beginning,” Thompson said.
“We have all come together and are all on the same page, and we are delivering the program”