Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Be careful where you toss that toy

In January 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers began testing a site in Florida known as the Innovation Way corridor. The state expected major developement to begin there in the coming years and it touched on a part of the old, WWII-era Pinecastle Jeep Range.

In July 2007, they released their report that there were indeed bombs, explosives, harmful chemicals and sharpnel scattered on the land near Innovation Way. Not only was it found there but it was found close to the six year-old Odyssey Middle School. In fact, two live 60 year-old test bombs were found 1,500 feet behind the school.

As the federal government is most apt to do these days, they announced that most of the munitions likely remain out in swamps and dense woods surrounding the school and no one is in immediate harm.... if they avoid the area. Officials doubt that any lie closer to the school or under it since none was found during construction.

Charles Fales, the Corps project manager stated that there is unexploded munitions and possibly more live bombs scattered on the 12,483 testing range. The federal government has promised the Corps $1 million to start cleaning up the 40 acre school site. They have also found mercury and nitroglycerin in some of the soil samples, both of which can be hazardous to humans and animals.

It was found that not only the school sat on part of the range but parts of the Vista Lakes and Tivoli Gardens communities were built on it as well. To add to that, soil from the range was used for the roads and as fill in those communities.

In October, the Corps assured the residents of Vista Lakes that their neighborhood was free of munitions. They added that their original maps of where bombs may have landed had been corrected from new information they had found from the WWII-era. The Corps stated that the area was much smaller and both communities lay outside the range.

A private munitions firm working for Lennar Homes though uncovered a 23 pound bomb in the backyard of a house under construction. The 12-by-6 inch cylinder known as an AN-M40 was covered by only two feet of dirt and was within easy reach of children. Lennar Homes will continue to have their grounds searched privately after losing faith in the reports from the Corps.

The Thanksgiving break also gave the Corps the time to continue searching for the munitions that, according to them, wouldn't be found on the school grounds. They uncovered 31 pounds of ordinance including a 100 pound test bomb, several rockets and rocket debris. one rocket and one projectile contained explosives and they were detonated.

As much as the Corp may try to downplay the amount of ordinance that lies in two neighborhoods, the fact that they keep uncovering it all too close to where children play has to make one wonder......... what the heck were they thinking when they began building on the edge of a testing range? I wonder too, how can they try to say that it is clear of ordinance when each time they search, they uncover more live bombs?

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