By Season Osterfeld, Fort Riley Public AffairsJuly 20, 2017
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- The Fort Riley Garrison Safety Office, the Environmental Division of the Directorate of Public Works and Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security are working together to cap or fill 50 open ground wells found scattered throughout the ranges and training areas.
When Fort Riley was a new installation, settlers came to the area and established homesteads. With time, the installation grew and the homesteads faded, eventually becoming the ranges and training areas Soldiers use today. However, not all traces of the homesteads were eliminated as some foundations, rock walls and ground wells still remain.
Ollie Hunter, volunteer instructor for the Fort Riley Outdoorsman Group, was out hunting when he discovered a well with a 100-foot drop. He notified the safety office through the iSportsman webpage, fortriley.isportsman.net, using the training area hazards report section.
Upon investigation of the well, additional wells were discovered, said Ron Clasberry, deputy garrison safety manager, Fort Riley Garrison Safety Office.
Due to the depth and location of these wells, they were declared a danger and quickly capped with concrete slabs and reinforced by treated lumber by ranger personnel from DPTMS, said Rick Bomia, Range Operations Officer, DPTMS.
"We contacted range control, which is Rick Bomia, and we had him and his guys fix that (one)," Clasberry said.
Realizing the wells may be more prolific, Clasberry said he reached out to the Environmental Division of DPW for help in locating additional wells. From there, a work group consisting of the Environmental Division, DPTMS and the safety office formed to locate, assess and handle the wells.
"After further digging, we decided to put a workgroup together … with the goal of trying to find out about how many wells were on the installation and DPW were very knowledgeable about them," he said.
By working together, they were able to discover the Environmental Division had maps with the locations of 120 open wells in the training areas, Clasberry said. From there, they split into teams to scour the area and investigate the wells -- 50 were discovered that posed hazards and needed to be capped or filled.
"What led us to the wells is when you see the homesteads, approximately 80 feet from that, we'd walk around the area, and then we'd see that well," he said. "A majority of the wells -- they weren't in an open area. They're in a heavily wooded area."
Once the wells that posed hazards were located, they were sorted into a Risk Assessment Code with RAC 1 indicating the greatest likeness it could be encountered and RAC 3 posing the least, Clasberry said.
"The small amount of wells and cisterns that were located in the more open areas posed a safety hazard to our Soldiers, (Department of the Army) civilians and our local hunters," Bomia said. "Some of the larger cisterns could cause damage to vehicles. Our speed to mitigate the open wells and cisterns was based on the safety aspect first and foremost."
The determination of whether or not a well would be capped or filled was decided by the Environmental Division as the staff weighed the effects to the water flowing in the well, if any, Clasberry said.
The wells varied in depth with many being between 40 and 100 feet, which posed a serious injury or loss of life risk should someone fall in, he said.
"There'd of been a possibility that somebody would have been walking out -- a hunter, troops -- would have fallen in that hole," Clasberry said. "We're talking about 100 feet for some of them."
The most dangerous of the wells, which were in open areas where people were likely to be, have been capped or filled. The remaining wells, which are mostly in heavily wooded areas, are in the process of being capped and filled.
Any hazards encountered on the range, training and maneuver areas should be reported using the iSportsman webpage. Hazards include anything that can do damage to the individual who located them, others or property and equipment.
"The DPTMS range folks are very good at responding to and cleaning up any sort of hazards," Clasberry said.