Cape Cod is famous for its clean, beautiful beaches making it a favorite vacation destination for millions each year. It is also home to Joint Base Cape Cod, a 22,000-acre military installation training US Soldiers for over 100 years. Camp Edwards Army National Guard Training Site is the largest tenant with over 15,000 acres, and is the primary military training facility for Guard and Reserve Soldiers throughout New England. The Massachusetts Army National Guard (MAARNG) continues making great progress in mitigating past environmental impacts while increasing military training capabilities. In fact, their efforts have earned them a 2020 First Place Award from the Secretary of the Army for Environmental Restoration (Installation).
The restoration successes are a direct result of the work and dedication of the entire Impact Area Groundwater Study Program (IAGWSP) team and their partners at the local, state, and federal level. To mitigate this threat and protect public health and the environment, the IAGWSP created long-term environmental restoration and remediation programs.
What makes groundwater of particular interest here is the fact that Camp Edwards sits on top of the sole source aquifer for Cape Cod. The area’s famously sandy soils allow contaminants to migrate quickly into the groundwater, which if not identified and properly addressed could potentially impact public and private drinking water wells. Thus, groundwater protection and remediation are priorities for everyone on Cape Cod.
“We have incredibly dedicated people working and training here that help ensure that current and future military activity is compatible and protective of the valuable natural resources found on Cape Cod,” said Shawn Cody, IAGWSP Program Manager. “Our restoration goals ensure safe quality water for those inside and outside the camp.”
During the past two years, the MAARNG has been able to remediate dozens of training ranges throughout the base and has since restored them to a standard that has significantly improved their military training value. The IAGWSP utilizes cutting-edge science and technology to locate, identify, remove and render-safe munitions when necessary. For example, electromagnetic induction sensor technology, or “metal mapper,” is used as a foundational tool in properly identifying unexploded ordnance (UXO) at the camp’s Central Impact Area. This technology not only reduces costs, but also enhances accuracy as it is able to identify munitions with more fidelity and helps discriminate which targets need to be addressed thus reducing the number needless digs due to false positives. This technology will potentially be used on over 100 acres on Camp Edwards having successfully cleared over 70 acres thus far. The program’s statistical objective is the removal of at least 90% of the UXOs and to reduce unnecessary digs by 70% in one of the most heavily used impact areas in the Army.
The MAARNG’s accomplishments at Camp Edwards are especially remarkable when given the camp’s historic context of contamination. In fact, Camp Edwards is the only operational range that has ever had training stopped due to an Environmental Protection Agency enforcement action. This was because of the perceived threat of contamination linked to training involving artillery and mortar firing.
The MAARNG has made great strides in remediating past contamination and works closely with its stakeholders to ensure that current and future activities are protective of environmental resources. The IAGWSP treats groundwater contamination with 14 systems on-site, processing more than 4 million gallons of groundwater each day.
Additionally, due to the dedication determination of the IAGWSP, Camp Edwards and the MAARNG Camp Edwards Training Site has reemerged as not just a functional training site, but also one of the premier training resources in the region.
Marksmanship training and qualification is accomplished here utilizing new enhanced-performance rounds. These pure copper rounds perform better on the battlefield, are safer in the environment, and very desirable for recycling, making them an overall more appealing alternative to lead. Camp Edwards was first in the National Guard to use these rounds.
Collaboration enabled Camp Edwards to reemerge from the Cold War era of contamination cleaner and with more compatible military training available to Soldiers. The IAGWSP does this through a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who serves as the general contractor for the National Guard Bureau, the Federal agency mandated with budgeting, funding, and managing the successful accomplishment of mission objectives.
“It was an honor to receive such an award,” said Col. Matt Porter, Commander, Camp Edwards. “Winning a Secretariat level award at the Army installation level is a tremendous accomplishment for any Army installation, let alone a National Guard Training Site. It is a credit to the hard-working people on staff and all those who take part in this program. They prove daily that collaboration and strong, open, honest communication channels with the public and all stakeholders are the most effective means to success.”