Airfield will be cleared of explosives

September 15, 1995|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

About 40 experts on explosives will scour nearly every inch of the 366-acre Tipton Army Airfield beginning next month to find and remove unexploded artillery shells, mortars and grenades.

The Army has hired Human Factors Applications of Waldorf to sweep up as many 3-inch mortars, 2-inch rockets, M-9 rifle grenades and 37 mm-to-75 mm projectiles as possible. The first team of experts is to begin work Oct. 10.

The work is expected to take at least nine months.

The $2.5 million cleanup of the Fort Meade airport was to have begun in June, but the money from the Pentagon did not come through until August, said Ray Leone, the Army Corps of Engineers project manager.

The delay prompted officials from Anne Arundel and Howard counties to postpone plans to open Tipton as a civilian airport Oct. 1.

Sam Minnitte, the Anne Arundel project manager, said this week that the counties intend to use the time to negotiate written guarantees that the Army will pay for damage or cleanup costs for environmental hazards discovered after the counties take over.

Meanwhile, the airport is being closed to operations, which probably will cut the time and cost of the environmental cleanup in half because the explosives experts can work with little interruption, Mr. Leone said.

The airport was built in 1960 on top of a munitions dump that might date back to World War I.

Last year, Anne Arundel and Howard counties agreed to lease Tipton from the Army and operate it, after the Department of Defense ordered the Army to give it up to cut military spending.

The counties would own the airport after the environmental cleanup.

No one knows how many shells are buried under the airfield, but a survey of the site turned up more than 1,200.

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