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Pilot Program Will Test Innovative Lead Bullet Capture System at Camp Edwards in Bourne, Mass.


EPA has approved a pilot program for the Massachusetts National Guard to evaluate a state-of-the art lead bullet capture system on one small arms range at Camp Edwards, in Bourne, Mass.

In addition to an innovative rubberized bullet catching system, the approved program also calls for recycling of spent ammunition and regular testing of soil and water resources with reporting to state and federal environmental officials to ensure that land and water resources are not significantly impacted by the reintroduction of lead bullets to the range.

“By working collaboratively with a variety of other agencies and groups, as well as the nearby communities, we’ve been able to find a promising solution that we hope will satisfy everyone’s needs,” said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “While our top concern is preventing pollution for the Upper Cape’s land and water, EPA also recognizes that the Massachusetts National Guard has taken great strides in balancing environmental mandates with providing realistic training for our troops"

As part of the Mass. National Guard’s request to resume use of lead bullets at Camp Edwards, several studies were submitted to EPA in June regarding potential of water contamination by lead. A careful review of this information indicated that the former use of lead bullets has not significantly contaminated groundwater at Camp Edwards or elsewhere on the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR); and potential significant impacts to groundwater and drinking water sources under MMR would be a very long-term concern, and can be controlled by using lead capture technology.

In order to ensure that the new lead capture techniques work effectively, EPA and state environmental officials are requiring that pollution prevention measures be put in place, coupled with regular environmental monitoring to evaluate if traces of lead are impacting water or land resources. Under this program, the Mass. National Guard will also remove traces of residual nitroglycerin (used as a propellant) found near firing ranges.

Camp Edwards will be one of only a few military bases across the country to incorporate the innovative new “STAPP Environmental Bullet Catcher” system at firing ranges. The STAPP catcher has two rubber membranes surrounding a layer of granulated rubber. Test range bullets are encased within the system and prevented from reaching the surrounding soil and water.

The Guard will be required to test groundwater and soil for lead and other pollutants annually, and soil pore water (water approximately four to five feet below the surface) three times a year. EPA will monitor this environmental testing along with state environmental experts. Further, the National Guard will collect and treat any water that penetrates the STAPP system, and dispose of it as a special waste. In addition, the Guard is required to periodically sift out and recycle trapped bullets.

EPA worked closely with a number of agencies to resolve issues related to reintroduction of lead bullets at the Tango Range on Camp Edwards. These include the Massachusetts Environmental Management Commission (EMC), which is comprised of the commissioners of the Mass. Depts. of Environmental Protection, Conservation and Recreation, and Fish and Game. EPA also worked closely with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard command centers.

Camp Edwards is part of the Massachusetts Military Reservation, a 20,000-acre area of Upper Cape Cod that also includes command centers for the Massachusetts Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard. The training facility is located above the Upper Cape Water Supply Reserve, which is the sole source aquifer that provides drinking water for the Upper Cape.

The pilot program will be allowed between Aug.1, 2007 – Dec. 31, 2008. EPA will ensure that the surrounding communities have an opportunity to review information about the reintroduction of lead bullets at Camp Edwards, and to provide input regarding the results of the trial period.


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