Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, the primary training site for the Ohio Army National Guard (OHARNG), sits on more than 21,000 acres of land that once housed the Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant (RVAAP). In recent years as training capabilities expanded, it became clear many areas of Camp Ravenna needed to be cleaned up to ensure they were safe to support the military mission.
A multi-agency team was formed to investigate and remediate more than 80 legacy contamination sites. The RVAAP Environmental Restoration (ER) team consists of members from the OHARNG, the Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
A key area of focus was the 211-acre Winklepeck Burning Grounds, set aside as the site for construction of the MK-19 range and a future multipurpose machine gun (MPMG) range, in the Camp Ravenna Range Development Plan. Formerly used for munitions disposal from the 1940s through the 1990s, this area was layered with bulk explosives, propellants, sludge from ammunition load lines, explosively-contaminated waste, debris, and ash. Anyone who set foot on these grounds was potentially at risk since the soil was contaminated and even contained explosive hazards.
The process of restoring the grounds began in 2005 with a munitions removal action plan to enable construction of the MK-19 range. This project focused solely on hazards within the construction footprint of the MK-19 range and left residual contamination on site that resulted in land use controls that made it impossible for the OHARNG to dynamically manage the range to meet evolving training requirements or to expand the MK-19 range to the required MPMG range. The RVAAP ER team completed a data quality objectives report in 2011 to demonstrate that the industrial cleanup standard could be achieved at the site resulting in removal of the restrictive land use controls and enabling the OHARNG to complete its military mission. Starting in 2015, additional investigation and soil removal actions were initiated to address soils contaminated with explosives and poly aromatic hydrocarbons. The work was completed in 2017 with cleanup to industrial standard achieved and the land left in a condition suitable for the future construction and operation of a MPMG range.
Five former burn pads were targeted, four of which were excavated at two feet and one at 10 feet. The aggressive schedule included excavating 5,250 cubic yards of contaminated soil, screening out 26 munitions, collecting waste samples, and incinerating 700 pounds of materials determined as safe before recycling them as scrap metal.
Excavated soil comingled with munitions was fed into a hopper that discharged into a chamber where the soil was pulverized to pass through a fine screen. The fine soil was screened at intervals as quality control to ensure no metallic material escaped through the grating. Soil that didn't pass through the screen was picked up by a ferrous metal separating magnet and inspected.
The munitions were destroyed onsite utilizing a Buried Explosion Module, or BEM. BEM detonates munitions below the ground surface in a lined sand pit with nearly seven feet of sand, thus limiting noise and preventing shrapnel as well creating a smaller fragmentation footprint. It also allows for the sand to be reused and munitions fragments to be easily recovered.
While a vast majority of the excavated soil was confirmed non-hazardous, one burn pad yielded 550 tons of cadmium-like hazardous material, which was disposed at a specialized hazardous waste facility.
The excavated areas were backfilled using clean soil from off-site and stabilized using native vegetation in accordance with Camp Ravenna's Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan.
OHARNG's goal to enable and expand military training on the former ammunition plant won them the 2017 Secretary of the Army Environmental award.
"I'm so pleased the Secretary of the Army recognized the work of this team. All too often people who work behind the scenes to turn our vision into reality are overlooked. It's great to see them receive the accolades they so richly deserve," said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio's assistant adjutant general for Army.
Throughout the entire process, the RVAAP ER team worked closely with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which allowed for a more streamlined cleanup process and ultimately led to a clearer understanding of end use and long-term management requirements. Rather than requiring meticulous recordkeeping of Soldier activities, mandated management of the facility perimeter fence, ultra conservative restrictions on digging, and quarterly reporting, the industrial reuse permits the OHARNG to conduct any full-time military training activities on the grounds while providing flexibility to construct and maintain the ranges.
"Working together means great things can be accomplished," said Col. William (Ed) Meade, Fort Ohio base operations manager for the OHARNG. "Ultimately, this will benefit all training Soldiers at Camp Ravenna in the decades to come and reaffirm the compatibility of training with environmental stewardship."