News Stories

Work Continues Clearing Munitions at Former WWII Training Installation

Published July 28, 2011

   Work is progressing and contractors are still searching for possible unexploded ordnance and other munitions at the Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) at Camp Butner, a World War II training installation located near Butner, NC. 

   Ray Livermore, a member of the Wilmington District’s Camp Butner FUDS Project, said contractors have completed work at a site that’s roughly 10 acres in size.  66 years after the end of WWII reminders of the intense training U.S. Soldiers did to take on the axis powers are still resurfacing. 

   “We just completed non-time critical removal actions in December at Camp Butner, and for the removal actions we were conducting over the past two and a half,” he said.  “We found 140 unexploded ordnance items in the area that ranged from a hand grenade with a pin still in it to a 155mm high explosive round.”

  Livermore said that there are 15 active Formerly Used Defense Sites in North Carolina, and he expects addition funding in Fiscal year 12 for other projects such as artillery sites along coastal North Carolina. The largest project by far is Camp Butner.   Urban sprawl is uncovering much of the former training area that used to be isolated farmland.  Land is less expensive in and around the town of Butner than in areas like Raleigh and Durham which makes it attractive for people looking to buy more affordable homes and real estate. 

   “Subdivisions are going in where there was forest or agricultural land and we haven’t cleared the areas yet,” he said.  “Some areas were cleared after WWII and yearly in the 1960s in specific areas.  However, that doesn’t mean that when they said they cleared the areas that it was done completely.  We want it done methodically, carefully and with the latest in technological gear.” 

  One key point for this long-term project, Livermore said, is assuring the public that safety is first and foremost.   

   “The contractors working on this job have performed many similar projects in other locations,” he said.  “A lot of these folks are former military ordnance specialists.  There’s enough confidence in them to use their military experience combined with the best technology and techniques for handling this sensitive issue.”

   Livermore said proactive community involvement with such groups as the Town of Butner, Granville County and Durham law enforcement agencies and local emergency response services has helped keep residents in Butner and those who live within the former Camp Butner informed about the project. 

   “We are getting a lot of information out to the public.  One of our target groups is children.  A few years ago we produced a safety video that helped explain to them what Camp Butner was during World War Two.  If kids ever find ordnance or any other type of munitions they know to call police or get an adult.”

   What makes work challenging at times, Livermore said, is trying to gain access to property when there’s a strong likelihood that UXO exists. 

  “There are generations of people who’ve lived in the Butner area who have dealt with finding UXO. Sometimes they really don’t see it as much of an issue.  The potential for something to happen is there, so we try to express our concern and encourage them to follow the three Rs; Recognize, Retreat, and Report.  And then there’s the opposite end of people who live in the area or who are new to the area and haven’t lived with the hazard.  When they bought property they didn’t realize they were buying property on a Formerly Used Defense Site. 

   According to Livermore, at the rate that the project’s going it could take up to 20 years to complete the Camp Butner FUDS project.  There are hundreds of acres to cover with limited funding. 

   “We have hundreds of houses that we’ve got to clear.  That’s excluding a few sub-areas that were identified based on specific range information like an old anti-tank range that are close to completion.

   The Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) funds the cleanup of sites like Camp Butner under the FUDS program. The US Army Corps of Engineers acts as the Defense Department’s agent to do the work, and the Wilmington District is the organization assigned as the project manager for the Camp Butner FUDS project.