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Old Bases Battle for New Life

Communities say more federal money is needed to rehab the ex-military spaces they've inherited, which are often polluted and impractical to use.

April 10, 2005|Ralph Vartabedian | Times Staff Writer

After an area is burned over, workers walk the land and look for visible ordnance to remove. Then teams sweep the area with metal detectors. Every suspicious signal from the detectors must be investigated by digging a hole, often 4 feet deep, with a hand shovel.

When shells are found, they are detonated nearby, which reverberates all the way to downtown Monterey. Along with the shells, the Army has removed 3.2 million shards of rusty metal scrap.

"The fragments are driving us crazy," said Clinton Huckins, the Army Corps of Engineers safety and quality assurance chief at the cleanup. "It is very time consuming out there, very expensive."

What's more, there is no standard for cleaning up ordnance, unlike environmental standards for carcinogens or other toxins. The issue is being studied and debated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Defense Department.

In the meantime, nobody is sure how clean is clean enough. In one area, the Army has scraped 2 feet of soil into a giant sandy mound that it will begin sifting in coming weeks.

"We can't guarantee anything," Huckins said. "It is buyer beware."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 15, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Military bases -- A map in Sunday's Section A with an article about the closing and cleanup of military facilities labeled two bases as Hunters Point. The closed facility in California is Hunters Point Naval Shipyard; the one in Maine is Loring Air Force Base.

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