• The Star Staff

Navy reports $300 million spent on Vieques cleanup

By John McPhaul


To date, the U.S. Navy has spent some $300 million on its cleanup activities on Vieques, with around $60 million contributed to the local economy, the Navy reported over the weekend.

As of October the Navy has met the following milestones:

* Conducted surface clearance of approximately 4,200 acres out of an estimated area of over 9,500 acres on the offshore island municipality to which access is restricted due to the presence of munitions on the surface.

* Conducted subsurface clearance of some 462 acres, including 23 miles of roads and beaches.

* Located and destroyed approximately 113,000 munitions and explosives of concern.

* Picked up and processed 8.2 million pieces of Munitions Potentially Presenting an Explosive Hazard.

* Processed over 19.1 million pounds of scrap metal generated through these and other activities, with over 17 million pounds recycled.

The U.S. Navy is the lead federal agency conducting work at the former Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Area – Vieques Superfund site.

Representatives from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Marine Fisheries Service work collaboratively to develop and implement measures that are protective of human health and the environment for certain areas of concern on Vieques.

The U.S. Navy has divided work at the site between two programs: The Munitions Response Program (MRP) and the Installation Restoration Program (IRP).

All munitions-related work is carried out under the MRP. All typical chemical contamination investigations are covered by the IRP. Within the MRP, the site has been divided into multiple Munitions Response Sites located in east and west Vieques.

Under the IRP, the Navy conducts multiple environmental investigations to determine the nature and extent of contamination at identified areas of concern and solid waste management units (SWMUs), the EPA reported.

Multiple non-time critical removal actions, or short-term cleanups, have been completed to remove solid waste piles/debris and munitions in the former Naval Ammunition Support Detachment (NASD). Records of Decision selecting final remedies for four areas of concern and two SWMUs have also been signed, including one upland MRP site within NASD.

Within the former Vieques Naval Training Range (VNTR), multiple sites have been investigated or are currently under investigation to assess potential past chemical releases and evaluate potential hazards associated with munitions and explosives of concern.

The Navy is also conducting removal actions to address munitions and explosives of concern in multiple areas of eastern Vieques, including the former Live Impact Area, the Surface Impact Area, and removal of subsurface MEC from selected roads and beaches within the former VNTR.

Seventy-three sites have been identified within the former VNTR and NASD, and of these, 51 sites were reviewed and determined to require no further action, four sites have a remedy in place with long-term monitoring and 18 sites are in the remedial investigation, feasibility study, proposed remedial action plan or record of decision phase.

“There is one large MRP site covering the entire underwater area,” the EPA said. “A Wide Area Assessment has been completed and a remedial investigation is planned to assess the nature and extent of contamination that may be present in the underwater areas surrounding specific areas of the island.”

To support accelerated public access to the area around the historic Spanish lighthouse and adjacent beach, a munitions clearance interim action for the beach adjacent to the lighthouse, the trail between the two, and the nearby southern beach was completed in the summer of 2014. A munitions clearance interim action for the southwestern beach was completed in January 2015. These early interim actions allowed for accelerated public access to the area, which was opened in March 2015.

Navy contractors have hired and trained local residents to conduct site-related work, including training 31 people to be unexploded ordnance technicians. Vieques residents are employed on the site.