JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Culebra Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) Restoration Advisory Board will meet Tuesday, April 9 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Juvenile Center on Culebra, Puerto Rico. The meeting is open to the public. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) will present an update on its ongoing investigations and future plans for the restoration (cleanup) of this FUDS.
The Department of Defense used the island of Culebra and adjacent islands and cays to train troops for combat and, although the Department of Defense ceased activities in the mid-1970s, military munitions remain on the islands and surrounding waters. The Corps is managing the cleanup of Culebra under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program for FUDS, and has divided Culebra into 14 project areas. One area is where anecdotal reports indicate materials from an encampment were placed in the wetland. The remaining 13 areas are known as Munitions Response Sites (MRSs).
Of the 13 MRSs, the Corps has initiated fieldwork on all land-based areas and Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study reports are in development. These reports will form the basis for plans to address each MRS. The Corps plans to begin fieldwork in two water-based MRSs in May 2013. An Environmental Baseline Survey to map the sea floor and classify habitat was completed at Flamenco Bay, Luis Pena Channel, Soldado Point and Cayo Luis Pena and will be used to plan the next phase of the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study for each of those areas.
“Public participation is important to the Corps’ process, and the Corps has reached the point where the public can play a critical role,” said Tom Freeman, project manager. “The Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study reports that are now in development will be shared with the community, which will have the opportunity to review and comment on each report before the Corps proceeds to the next cleanup phase, development of a Proposed Plan to address each area.”
The U.S. Congress prohibited the Department of Defense from using federal funds to clean up a portion of Culebra’s Northwest Peninsula (NWP). Although the Department of Defense used the entire NWP for shore and aerial bombardment, the 1982 deed transferring a portion of the NWP to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico transferred this portion in its existing condition and placed responsibility for any cleanup required, including the removal of unexploded ordnance, with the Commonwealth. In 2012, the Corps, in response to a congressional request, prepared and submitted a report on the NWP. This report provided an estimate of the types and amount of unexploded ordnance within the NWP and an estimate for its cleanup. To date, Congress has not indicated its intent with regard to the NWP.
The likelihood of encountering munitions on Culebra, and particularly on the NWP, is relatively high and the Corps has always warned community members and visitors alike to learn and follow the 3Rs of explosives safety: Recognize when you may have encountered a munition, and that munitions are dangerous; Retreat – do not touch, move or disturb it, but carefully leave the area following the same path on which you entered it; Report what you encountered and its location by notifying local law enforcement immediately at 787-742-3501. This information has been distributed widely on the island and is posted at a kiosk on Flamenco Beach, a popular destination.
“Safety is the Corps’ top priority,” said Freeman. “Even if old or in the water for long periods of time, munitions are dangerous – they should never be collected as souvenirs. The best way to keep yourself, your family and your community safe is to follow the 3Rs.”
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