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Camp Bonneville cleanup costs jump by $7.1M

The cost of cleaning the Camp Bonneville firing range has more than doubled, the result of a panoply of metals found submerged deep beneath the surface of the former military site.

The U.S. Army has agreed to pay Weston Solutions Inc. $7.1 million for the additional work. County commissioners Wednesday signed off on the new contract.

Clark County accepted ownership of the 3,840-acre site in 2011 after the U.S. Army agreed to pay for its cleanup. The site, about six miles north of Camas, contains possibly explosive munitions and other hazardous materials from 85 years of military training.

In 2012, the county hired Weston to clear Phase 1 of the munitions-riddled camp using funding from the Army. That original contract was for about $6.5 million, said Clark County engineer Jerry Barnett.

But early in the cleanup effort, Barnett said, it became clear there was an unexpected wealth of metallic material in the ground that needed to be dug up and disposed of.

“There’s quite a bit of metal there,” Barnett said. “And the ground has been reworked with bulldozers. There are areas that you wouldn’t expect to find things where we have.”

Another problem, Barnett said, was the technology contractors were using, a type of commercial-grade metal detector, wasn’t cost-effective.

In part, the extra money will be used to pay for more help. Starting this month, there will be 24 people working on-site, Barnett said.

The county had no obligation to pay money to Weston until the Army passed it along, said Chris Horne, the chief civil deputy in the county prosecutor’s office. He said the county had reviewed the contract and verified the numbers. The Army is footing the entire bill, including Weston’s contract and the county’s expenses.

The cleanup complications will push back the overall timeline for completing Phase 1. Weston’s original contract called for the project to be completed by 2014. Now, the county doesn’t expect Phase 1 to wrap up until 2017.

The first of four planned cleanup phases, the current work covers 449 acres of the lowest points of the camp, known as the central valley floor along LaCamas Valley Creek.

Long-term plans call for a regional county park on part of the land.

This hasn’t been the first hiccup in cleaning up the site. In 2009, work came to a halt when then-project leader Mike Gage claimed the Army had undersold the county on the amount of work that had to be done at Camp Bonneville. Early in the cleanup, the Army told the county it should expect to find around 15 to 20 dangerous devices in the ground. Instead, there were more than 1,500, county officials said in 2012.

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