Local News

Butner Residents Battle With Corps Of Engineers Over Ordnance Cleanup

Posted December 18, 2003

— The War in Iraq may prove costly for the town of Butner.

The Army Corps of Engineers dropped a bombshell on the cleanup of World War II ammunition. They said the Department of Defense can only afford one third of the $12 million price tag.

Butner is on the southern end of 40,000 acres that used to be Camp Butner.

It was here that soldiers getting ready for World War II would practice firing all kinds of weapons. Experts say hundreds, if not thousands, of unexploded ordnance remains in an area that is attracting families building dream homes.

What was once a dream is now a frightening reality for Amy Blalock and her husband, Wyatt. They are afraid to walk around their house after finding an unexploded shell from 1942 on their land.

"My husband stepped on it," Amy Blalock said.

The shell was the second active shell they found on their land. Experts estimate that up to 84 more are buried around their house.

The Blalocks came to a meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday night, hoping to hear that the federal government was going to clean up all 10 acres of their land.

"We have large objects out there that are extremely dangerous," Amy Blalock said, "and we want to know why we're not listed and why you're not going to do all 10 acres of our property."

Responded Bob Keistler, of the Army Corps of Engineers: "Areas that are wooded we're not going to look at this time partly because of funding."

It boils down to economics. The Corps of Engineers only has $4 million to do a $12 million job.

So instead of clearing all of Camp Butner, the corps has committed to clearing two acres around each of the 250 homes that are in the area right now.

"Perhaps there's nothing that I can say that will lead to a 100 percent satisfaction of all parties," said Col. Ray Alexander, of the Corps of Engineers. "But we're doing the best we can with the funding available."

For the Blalocks, that is not good enough.

"Does someone have to die before enough money gets appropriated to help us?" Amy Blalock said.

The Corps of Engineers said one reason the Department of Defense does not have the money is because of the war on terrorism. Another reason is because there are 8,000 projects like this one throughout the country, including 10 in North Carolina.

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