By Jeff Oja
23rd Space Operations Squadron
NEW BOSTON AIR FORCE STATION — In September 2008, New Boston AFS started the Air Force’s first Unexploded Ordnance surface clearance project on approximately 1,200 acres that were used as a Department of Defense bombing range from 1942 to 1956. The purpose of the project is to remove visible surface materials including Munitions or Explosives of Concern (MEC), Munitions debris (MD), and other metallic items to facilitate an efficient and expeditious Remedial Investigation (RI) for New Boston AFS.
In May 2009 Shaw Environmental, with oversight from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), returned to New Boston AFS to complete the surface clearance field work. This year Shaw used up to six UXO clearance teams with each team consisting of seven UXO technicians. With the addition of two teams the clearance moved much faster than expected and the surface clearance was officially completed by mid-August.
Once again the terrain throughout the installation made surface clearance extremely difficult and with June recorded as one of the rainiest months in New Hampshire history, the teams truly had to watch their every step. Upon completion of the surface clearance effort, a total of 1,070 acres were cleared. Approximately 57 tons of MD was removed and 117 live UXOs were discovered and safely detonated on site by trained Shaw Environmental personnel. Of the 117 live items, 15 were 100-pound high-explosive general purpose bombs.
In addition to the 1,070 acres that were surface cleared an additional 73 acres were investigated down to five feet below the surface to help determine the amount of MEC and depth of MEC below the ground surface. Approximately 2,167 items were dug within the 73 acres and only one live item was found sub-surface. This information will be vital in scoping the RI and for the RI field work starting in the spring of 2010.
On Sept. 15 and 16, 2009, New Boston AFS safely detonated six live 100-pound high-explosive general purpose bombs officially ending the 2009 UXO field work. Before the detonations an e-mail was sent to the Town of New Boston Web site indicating the dates and approximate time of the detonations and a separate e-mail was sent upon completion.
Prior to the detonations, two Eastern Hog Nose Snakes (Heterodon platirhinos, State-endangered species) were also discovered by New Boston AFS and Shaw personnel within 100 feet of one of the live 100-pound bombs. The two snakes were removed from the detonation areas and safely returned after the detonations were completed. With the help of the New Boston AFS natural resources office Shaw Environmental was able to mitigate the impact of one of the detonations to prevent damage to an archeological site by using sand bags to direct the detonation away from the site.
With the project complete, personnel from Shaw Environmental and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will return in the spring of 2010 to complete the surface clearance in a few small areas and continue with sub-surface investigations.