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November 09, 2012


McCoy ranges pass DoD-required inspection

By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Office

Training ranges at Fort McCoy have passed the Department of Defense (DoD)-required two-phase Operational Range Assessment Program (ORAP) testing for munitions constituents of concern (MCOC).

MCOC are traces of explosives or metals, such as lead, zinc, copper, etc., or chemicals, such as white phosphorus, used in or involved with range training. Mark McCarty, chief of Fort McCoy’s Natural Resources Branch of the Environmental Division of the Directorate of Public Works, said work on the comprehensive ORAP began in 2008 for the installation’s 226 operational ranges and final results were released in October.

The results of the assessment show that MCOC from the operational ranges on the installation are not migrating at levels that could pose an unacceptable risk to on- or off-installation human health or the environment.

Phase I of the assessment, which began in 2008, was a qualitative evaluation of whether a MCOC source existed on the operational range, whether there was a potential migration mechanism, and if any human or sensitive ecological receptors were present. Of the 226 ranges evaluated, 161 ranges were rated as “unlikely” for having MCOC migrating off range, McCarty said. This left 65 ranges that were rated as “Inconclusive,” or, in other words, needed to be further evaluated under Phase II of the study to determine whether MCOC was migrating off the range along surface water and groundwater pathways.

The results of the Phase II assessment revealed that MCOC from the operational ranges on Fort McCoy are not migrating off-post at levels that pose an unacceptable risk to human and or ecological receptors. Therefore, the 65 ranges previously identified in the Phase I report as “Inconclusive” should be re-categorized as “Unlikely.”

Fort McCoy is not required to take any actions about MCOC at this time, McCarty said.

Data from post studies, including fishing lakes and streams, and drinking water wells were used to complete Phase I of the assessment.

John Noble, Fort McCoy fisheries biologist, said the fisheries program monitors surface water quality in fishing lakes and streams to help manage fishing populations.

“This study used some of our reference points and data,” he said. “The scope of this study was more specific for munitions (and chemicals).”

Fort McCoy also uses fewer chemicals, such as white phosphorus, in training than it did 20 years ago. This reduces the amount of chemicals that get into surface or groundwater. Noble said the incorporation of simulation training also has helped reduce the use of live ammunition on ranges.

Craig Bartholomew, an environmental protection specialist, said samples were taken at drinking water wells that are in the water migration paths of the ranges.

About 90 percent of the 65 ranges that were rated inconclusive after Phase I of the assessment drain into the La Crosse River or Squaw Lake. Phase II was a quantitative assessment done by EA Engineering, Science and Technology, Inc., which was contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Baltimore District. Representatives of the firm were accompanied and granted access to the test areas by members of the Integrated Training and Management (ITAM) Program to ensure they didn’t cause any conflicts with training, etc., added Brent Friedl, ITAM coordinator.

“The results show that MCOC is not migrating from the ranges at levels of concern with regard to human health or the environment on or off the installation,” Bartholomew said.

Fort McCoy also is required to conduct yearly studies/assessments of its drinking water wells to ensure they meet state and federal standards, as well.

The results of Fort McCoy’s Phase II show that MCOC from the operational ranges are not migrating at levels that pose an unacceptable risk to off-range human and or ecological receptors.

Fort McCoy conducts surface water quality monitoring at selected stream locations prior to water coming on the installation, within the installation and when it leaves the installation to help ensure its environmental integrity, McCarty said. These efforts are ongoing.

Fort McCoy, along with other installations, will take part in a DoD periodic review program to monitor installation operational ranges under the ORAP, he said.

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