Local News

Engineers Search For Hidden Army Hazards At Camp Butner

Posted May 16, 2001

— Sixty years ago, Camp Butner was home to thousands of Army recruits. The land in Granville County may now be contaminated from what they left behind.

Engineers are using high-tech metal detectors to locate underground metal, possibly bullets and shells.

"Basically, everything from .22 caliber to 240-millimeter projectiles were fired here, and unfortunately, some of them were not recovered afterward or they were duds," said Roland Belew of the Army Corps of Engineers.

A private contractor is using the equipment to test more than 200 of the 20,000 acres of firing ranges. They will get a good idea about whether a removal project is called for.

More than 4,000 acres of the old camp are still used as firing ranges by the National Guard. There is no danger on the firing ranges, but as private landowners develop their property, they must be careful of what is underground.

"There are quite a few souvenir hunters around this area and stuff on the surface is, for the most part over the last 50, 60 years, has been removed," said Don Silkebakken of Plarsons Engineering Science. "The subsurface material is what we're really looking for, trying to identify (in case someone wants) to build a house or grade the area."

Camp Butner is one of about 1,200 old training bases around the country. All have the problem of old ammunition possibly buried underground. The problem came to light 20 years ago in California when two young boys were killed when an un-exploded shell went off.

The Butner project is just getting underway. About 300 private landowners are being asked for access to their land by the Army. A final report on the Corps' study will come sometime next year.

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