Navy to update public on clean-up, property transfers at former base in Brunswick

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BRUNSWICK — U.S. Navy representatives will update the public on environmental clean-up and property transfers at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station at a Dec. 7  meeting.

The year-end meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board will include staffers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Navy providing a summary of clean-up efforts and transfers from the past year, as well as upcoming activities.

One topic expected to be come up is the Navy’s program for identifying and removing unexploded ordnance.

This fall, two explosives were discovered by workers in separate incidents on the former Navy base. On Nov. 1, contractors from Harry S. Crooker & Sons found a practice bomb in a ditch near the Mere Creek Golf Course. On Nov. 9, workers installing a fence around an old quarry on the western side of the base found a rifle grenade.

The discoveries were worrisome to Carol Warren, a citizen member of the RAB.

“We didn’t think there were any areas like that … it’s a Naval air station, no one’s been shooting artillery shells,” she said. “We need to know what the Navy’s safety plans are to make sure the public is protected.”

Paul Burgio, environmental coordinator for the Navy’s Base Realignment and Closure program, said he was especially surprised by the location of the practice bomb.

“That one especially was kind of a head-scratcher,” he said. Munitions have been found around the quarry in the past, although the rifle grenade “was a little further out than we expected.”

The Navy has now installed fences around both areas.

Munition use at BNAS “was very minor compared to a typical military installation,” Burgio said. The Navy has already cleared the most obvious areas where known munitions activities took place, but will continue clearing the rest of the base in the spring, he said..

Elsewhere on the base, other environmental clean-up activities are continuing.

The Navy will update the RAB about the Eastern Plume, a 23-acre groundwater site contaminated with volatile organic compounds and solvents, and an area of buried construction debris on the Topsham Annex. Also on the agenda is upcoming work at the skeet range and any future access restrictions.

The RAB meeting is the first since Brunswick Area Citizens for a Safe Environment issued a report summarizing clean-up work on the base and outlining what has yet to be done.

The report was designed to inform future property owners and the public, which is now permitted to use most areas of the base, about on-going environmental hazards.

But Burgio said most of the remaining contamination is in the groundwater at the Eastern Plume, and people should feel safe walking around the former base.

“There’s really not a concern, say, with people walking on a site,” he said. “They’re not going to be exposed to anything. there’s no harm or danger.”

The RAB will meet from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Parkwood Inn, 71 Gurnet Road.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.