By Mitch Chandran, Hq. SDDCFebruary 25, 2013
The Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command's Military Ocean Terminal, Concord, or MOTCO, Calif., is currently taking advantage of a U.S. Army-sponsored environmental program designed to locate unexploded ordnance and other metallic debris left over from decades of munitions-related military activities.
Additionally, metallic debris, and possible unexploded ordinance, are being investigated from the July 17, 1944 Port Chicago explosion at Pier 1 that involved two merchant vessels and about 5,000 tons of ammunition and explosives.
The massive investigation and remedial effort at MOTCO is being performed in tandem with the Military Munitions Response Program, managed by U.S. Army Environmental Command, or USAEC, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Army Explosive Safety Board, with the program designed to discover and cleanup old military munitions, and explosive and non-explosive debris.
The program's Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study will hone in on three sites totaling more than 10,000 acres of land and water (Suisan Bay) at MOTCO.
"The MMRP is actively engaged in locating, identifying, and ultimately destroying any munitions found inland from their initial over flight survey," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Sheets, 834st Transportation Battalion and MOTCO installation commander. "We are committed to protecting California's environment and ensure it remains in pristine condition for years to come."
The cleanup program consists of five phases which kicked off October 2010 and is expected to conclude mid-2014.
"This is the first time a comprehensive survey and cleanup has been performed in our area," said Guy Romine, remedial program manager for SDDC. "The planning of this program has been monumental and we're seeing a big payoff in that we're discovering old debris -- some of which are explosive - almost every day."
MOTCO personnel are not going it alone with the MMRP. Besides the contractor performing the work, various federal, state and local agencies have a stake in this effort to include California Department of Toxic Substances Control; California Regional Water Quality Control Board; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 to name a few. Additionally Contra Costa County Health Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also significant stakeholders.
After a lengthy planning phase, two methods were employed to survey land and water. A boat-towed sidescan sonar was used to survey shallow water areas and a helicopter outfitted with a geophysical magnetometer was used for deeper water and land surveys.
Once metal and unexploded ordinance is located and documented, the focus will shift to recovering the old metals and properly disposing them, and if appropriate or needed, performing a controlled detonation.
"From a safety perspective, this effort is a huge benefit," said Travis Wetzler, safety officer for the 834st. "Along with a lot of metallic debris, we've discovered a few items requiring us to do a controlled detonation. Removing this type of safety hazard is always good for the installation."
The progress of this MMRP is going better than I expected," Sheets said. "We are working very well together ensuring that we get our contractor any resources they need to complete this important effort."
According to USAEC, after decades of munitions-related activities required to maintain our military's readiness, unexploded ordnance, discarded military munitions and munitions constituents may be present to some degree at many active and former military installations.
MOTCO is a world class ammunition ocean terminal and distribution organization that leverages 21st century business processes, industrial practices, and information technologies to expedite the safe and secure delivery of munitions to the Combatant Commander.