Editor’s Note: The Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) program for the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division (LRD) is managed by the Louisville District, which is responsible for all projects within Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan. Huntington District serves as the project manager for the West Virginia Maneuver Area project.
Over Memorial Day weekend, an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) - a 4.2-inch white phosphorous mortar projectile - was found in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area (DSWA) of West Virginia by Boy Scouts who were backpacking and camping in thearea.
Dolly Sods, which is a popular area for outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, camping and viewing wildlife, plants and birds native to the area, is part of the West Virginia Maneuver Area (WVMA), a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS), which was used by the Army for live fire training and maneuvers during World War II.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Huntington District has performed two removal actions along the trails and campsites in the past and immediately began coordinating for a safe removal of the unexploded ordnance.
"Janet Wolfe in our Environmental Remediation Section was instrumental in coordinating the response actions to ensure safe disposal of the ordnance," said Rick Meadows, USACE project manager.
Boy Scout Troop 1997 visiting from Ellicott City, Md., ran across the UXO May 25 near the intersection of Dobbin Grade and Beaver Dam trails. The Boy Scouts photographed the UXO, sketched the location of the UXO find and called the U.S. Forest Service hotline number.
"They followed the process outlined in our program to avoid the hazard and properly report it," said Meadows.
The U.S. Forest Service then notified the Huntington District. The Environmental and Remediation Section, after coordination with the Baltimore District and the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, Ala., and personnel at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, contacted the Army 52nd Ordnance Command of Fort Campbell, Ky., which is the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) command center for this part of the country. The EOD Group quickly responded and expeditiously disposed of the UXO in place.
Timely coordination among the Boy Scouts, U.S. Forest Service, Huntington District, and the 52nd EOD Group resulted in the prompt disposal of the UXO May 27, 2014.
Historically, UXO removal was performed at WVMA immediately after WWII and again in 1997-1998. The 1997- 1998 removal focused on the existing trails and campsites of DSWA. Subsequently, warning signs were posted at the trailheads to warn the public of UXO dangers outside the cleared areas. Outdoor activities at DSWA outside of the cleared areas include an increased level of risk of encountering UXO.
Additionally, safety sessions are held as part of the Long-Term Monitoring (LTM) for the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area to raise public awareness about UXOs. On June 7, Huntington District held a safety session at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center in coordination with National Trails Day to help alert the public about the possibility of encountering UXO during their visit.
The Corps emphasizes the 3 "R’s" of Munitions safety: Recognize, Retreat and Report:
Recognize – There is no way to describe UXO. UXO can come in many shapes and sizes. It can be rusty or look like new. It can be out in the open, hidden in bushes or partially buried. The important thing to remember is that if you see what you think is UXO then you should retreat from the area and report it to authorities.
Retreat – Make sure to never touch UXO, as they can be extremely dangerous. If you see UXO, immediately leave the area and do not disturb the item.
Report – If you come across what might be UXO, you should leave it be and report it to your local law enforcement by calling 911. They will be able to take care of the item. Do not use your cell phone near the item. Call 911 after retreating from the UXO.