GUAM – While contractors working on preparing Guam for the military buildup face deadlines and regulations, they also face another hazard: hidden bombs, hand grenades and mortar rounds left over from Word War II.
Several planned construction sites require extra attention as they cover zones classified as having a “high probability” of containing unexploded ammunition, including parts of Apra Harbor and the Andersen base, according to a March, 2011 report by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific.
Before and during work to prepare for the transfer of at least 8,600 U.S. Marines and their families and support staff to Guam from Okinawa, teams of unexploded ordnance, or UXO, experts, will scour the grounds, subsurfaces and waters around construction sites to ensure safety of workers. Depending on the degree of concern, supervision will range from on-call UXO help to steady on-site oversight and other precautions.
As part of its effort to assure safety, the Navy has a $50 million multiple award contract with four companies specialized in removing the so-called Munitions or Explosives of Concern, or MEC. The companies include Hawaii’s Donaldson Enterprises, Inc., and Environet, Inc., Hagatna-based CKY Inc., and Unitek Environmental Guam.
Unitek won the first task order of the contract – a $250,000 job to clear unexploded ordnance from the North Tipalao housing project. Unitek President Leroy Moore told GuamBuildupNews.com that he expects clearance to accelerate in 2012. Task orders are to be issued to one of the four companies as needed over five years.
“Construction activities in moderate and high probability areas would require a MEC clearance of the construction footprint to applicable depths, equipment safety protocols and construction support during all construction activities,” according to the Explosive Safety Submissions for Guam Construction Support by NAVFAC.
The report identified seven main areas of concern related to unexploded munitions on Guam construction sites, including Finegayan, Barrigada, Apra Harbor, Andersen North Ramp, Andersen South/Route 16, the Andersen Northwest Field and the Ordnance Annex in the south of the island.
Between 1991 and 2011, experts in unexploded ordnance, or UXO, have found undetonated bombs ranging from 100 pounds to 1,000 pounds at the 4,780-acre Apra Harbor, along with hand grenades, artillery rounds and other munitions, according to the report. Smaller bombs and projectiles have been dug up and disposed of at all other areas of concern, including 350-pound depth bombs around the Naval Hospital and 81 mm mortar rounds at Finegayan.
The ordnance is mainly found in areas of heavy fighting during World War II. In 1941, a Japanese force of 6,000 invaded Guam and the U.S., to recapture it in 1944, bombarded the island for two weeks before sending in an invasion force on July 21 through beaches at Asan and Agat.
A series of Navy maps divide areas of Guam into zones of high, medium and low probability of construction teams encountering unexploded weapons, with parts of Apra Harbor and Andersen Air Force base among the highest probability.
To access the maps and other details of the report, see pages 21 to 149 of the document at this link.