[Background on Jefferson Proving Ground below]
Also see enlarged maps of JPG
MADISON, IN -- The U.S. Army has outraged local residents by proposing to stop health and environmental testing on a former firing range that holds more than 77 tons of spent uranium-based weapons.
Although the uranium at the Army's shuttered Jefferson Proving Ground (JPG) is not highly radioactive, some residents worry that it might break down in the soil or be washed away, possibly entering drinking water. "I don't know why we should be the guinea pigs," Jefferson County Commissioner Julie Berry said. "A lot can be at stake here. There are a lot of unknowns."
Berry and other residents, local officials and environmentalists are fighting the Army's proposal that testing of the area for health and environmental hazards be halted, the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., reported in a story published Monday. The Army also wants to close off the area and leave the depleted uranium rounds where they fell.
Depleted uranium is what remains after uranium is enriched for use in weapons or reactors. Only slightly radioactive, but very heavy and hard, it is used, among other things, in weapons designed to penetrate armor.
Between 1984 and 1994, the Army shot rounds of depleted uranium into a 2,000-acre target zone at the proving ground. Although some of the uranium was picked up and recycled, more than 150,000 pounds remains embedded in the soil.
Local residents and activists question the Army's decision, as does U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., who represents the southeastern Indiana area. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also has ruled that the Army's plan for handling the site does not pass muster. Opponents of the Army's handling of the site argue that no one can guarantee that the depleted uranium buried in the woods and fields on the Army firing range would not someday pose a serious health threat.
A fact sheet on depleted uranium prepared by the World Health Organization warns that food and drinking water can become contaminated where depleted-uranium weapons have been used.
The WHO recommends careful monitoring of any area where there is a "reasonable possibility" that depleted uranium could enter the ground water or the food chain.
In asking for federal approval to leave the depleted uranium weapons in place, the Army said a cleanup would be too dangerous because they were fired into land loaded with unexploded conventional weapons
In January, the Army said that it saw no need to continue the health and environmental monitoring at the site because no uranium was found in twice-yearly tests on ground water. It also said computer modeling showed little risk to the surrounding area from the depleted uranium.
However, in a challenge before the NRC, a local environmental group questioned why the Army has refused to try to remove the depleted uranium.
Save the Valley also said it doubted that the Army had adequately examined whether the uranium could be washed into neighboring wells and farm fields and be ingested by animals that freely roam the range. They urged the NRC to order the Army to continue to monitor indefinitely for contamination in soil, sediment, surface water and ground water.
The NRC also asked the Army to examine the depleted uranium's composition thoroughly, in light of recent scientific findings that it is not pure uranium but also contains plutonium, americium and neptunium — all much more dangerous radioactive substances.
Madison Mayor Al Huntington said was disturbed by the Army's intention to retain ownership but not monitor the soil and ground water.
"My personal opinion is the Army just wants to walk away," he said. "Nobody knows what's going to happen if (the depleted uranium) breaks down. I'll guarantee you that if this were a (private) corporation, they'd be finding a way to clean it up."
Jefferson Proving Ground is located in southeastern Indiana, approximately 8 miles north of the Indiana-Kentucky border and about 5 miles north of Madison, Indiana. The installation occupies parts of Jefferson, Jennings and Ripley Counties, and is about 17.2 miles in length and ranges from 4 to 6 miles in width. Lands surrounding JPG are predominantly farmland and woodlands, with some small towns and rural residential land use nearby.
The facility is divided into a Northern Firing Range Area and a Southern Cantonment Area, separated by a firing line consisting of 268 former gun positions used for testing ordnance until September 1994. This line runs east-west across the width of the facility and is separated from the Cantonment Area by an east-west firing line fence.
JPG contains 379 buildings, 182 miles of roads, and 48 miles of boundary fence line.
The Southern Area houses support facilities that were used for administration, ammunition assembly and testing, vehicle maintenance, and residential housing. Up to September 1994, this area also was used for ammunition assembly and testing and weapons maintenance. Most of these buildings are situated along a 1-mile strip just south of the Firing Line Road on Woodfill Road. An abandoned airport with four runways and a hanger building are located in the southwest corner of the facility.
The Northern Area consists of 51,000 acres of undeveloped and heavily wooded land. Numerous discrete areas were cleared and targeted during certain munitions tests.
source: http://www.jpgbrac.com/history/site_description.htm 22jan2007
Conservationists around the state and hundreds of proving ground neighbors support the plan for a 51,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge at the Jefferson Proving Ground (JPG). JPG, which covers 90 square miles in southeastern Indiana, is a former U.S. Army munitions testing facility that closed its gates on September 30, 1995. Left behind are over 1.5 million rounds of unexploded munitions (UXO) in the 51,000 acres north of the "firing line". The Army has deferred its final decision on a permanent plan for reuse of this land. Army officials have stated they have no plans to clean up the unexploded ordnance at this time.Army and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sign Three-Year Fish and Wildlife Management Agreement
In April 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army completed a Memorandum of Agreement providing for the Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the natural resources on the 51,000 acre tract at JPG. The Army is supplying the funding for this project. Under this agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Service will manage the land to protect JPG's large mature hardwood forest areas, maintain its grassland habitats, and promote the recovery of endangered species at the property, particularly the federally-endangered Indiana bat and state-threatened Henslow's sparrow.Why protect the Jefferson Proving Ground?
State and federal biologists
consider the proving ground to be an ecological treasure
with wildlife and plant diversity probably unmatched in
the lower midwest. This natural significance arises from
both the absence of development in the northern section
as well as its large size and unbroken character. Coupled
with the fact that Indiana has a scant public land base
of about 3% of its total area, the protection of JPG as a
wildlife refuge is of paramount importance in the effort
to preserve Indiana's natural heritage.
The Indiana DNR conducted botanical surveys in limited areas of the proving ground during 1993 and found both high quality natural vegetation communities, and twenty-nine rare plant species.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's biological surveys of JPG, conducted since 1993, have documented a wide diversity of both rare and common wildlife species. Several of the streams have very high water quality and support rich fisheries -- with over forty different fish species identified in JPG streams. They also contain freshwater mussels, which are one of the most imperiled groups of organisms on the planet. The high quality of JPG's streams and wetlands also led the IDNR to reintroduce river otters into the proving ground in 1996. The forested areas contain virtually the full complement of forest wildlife species still native to Indiana, from common game species like the whitetail deer and wild turkey to rare birds and mammals such as the sharp-shinned hawk, cerulean warbler, and most likely the bobcat. The federally-endangered Indiana bat, whose range is limited to the American midwest, has been found in all of the major stream drainages of the proving ground, and is known to be breeding there. Because the most serious current threat to the Indiana bat's recovery is the loss of its summer habitat (mature streamside and upland forests), JPG may very well constitute an essential habitat reserve in the Ohio River valley for this bat.
These biological surveys have also identified over 120 species of breeding birds at JPG. This is as high a level of bird diversity as is found anywhere in Indiana. Biologists are increasingly concerned over the fate of scores of migratory bird species whose habitat is at risk in both North and South America. The birds at risk include a number of forest-dependent species, among them the group of wood warblers found at JPG, whose ability to reproduce successfully depends on the availability of unbroken forest habitat. JPG contains some of the largest contiguous forest area in the lower midwest, including the whole area north of `K' Road. Midwestern researchers studying the impacts of forest fragmentation on migratory birds state, "Our results suggest that a good regional conservation strategy for migrant songbirds in the Midwest is to identify, maintain, and restore the large tracts that are most likely to be population sources [a site where the birds breed successfully]."
In the central part of JPG is a large grassland area, once an impact zone, that together with the open lands in the cantonment area are now providing large habitat tracts for the Henslow's sparrow. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the breeding population of the Henslow's sparrow at JPG one of the largest known within the species' entire range.
Hanover College biologist Daryl Karns, who conducts surveys for reptiles and amphibians throughout southeast Indiana, considers JPG to be the richest area for these species in this region. Dr. Karns has identified thirty-eight species of turtles, toads, frogs, salamanders, and snakes at JPG including the state-listed kirtlands water snake.
Indiana cave experts have conducted cave surveys at JPG and already located 31 caves. This is a resource previously undocumented at the proving ground.
source: Hoosier Environmental Council 10nov97
Mindfully.org note: The problem with any of this great plan by environmentalists and the Army is that DU remains a radioactive toxicant able to disrupt all life for what is essentially an eternity. This includes humans and all animals within the contaminated area. And if that isn't bad enough, the wind blows DU-contaminated dust from JPG as far as wind will blow, which is essentially the face of the Earth! Congratulations US Army, you've saved us all by killing us. You nincompoops.
Important information on Depleted Uranium from the Army's expert on it. (What the Army doesn't want you to know)