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Navy proposes munitions cleanup for Ostrich Bay

Military munitions were discovered in Ostrich Bay near Jackson Park during a remedial investigation.

U.S. NAVY PHOTO

By JULIANNE STANFORD | The KitsapSun (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 18, 2017

The Navy has proposed a plan to clean up long-lost munitions and explosives hidden for almost 60 years underneath the sediment in Ostrich Bay near Jackson Park.

The housing complex near Naval Hospital Bremerton is the site of the former Naval Ammunition Depot Puget Sound, where munitions were manufactured, stored and demilitarized from 1904 to 1959. The depot's records indicate munitions unintentionally fell into the water during loading and unloading ships at two piers in Ostrich Bay, only one of which still exists today.

The Navy estimates munitions such as bullets, shotgun shells, fuses, 20 mm projectiles, 40 mm projectiles, 5-inch projectiles and 14-inch projectiles fell into the water during transport. To date, more than 10,000 of these types of munitions have been discovered and removed from the proposed cleanup area, ranging from bullets to a single anti-submarine “Hedgehog” rocket.

More than 20,000 pounds of munitions were transferred to barges across the water during the bay's military use, according to the proposal.

While large numbers of lost munitions have been previously removed from the bay during investigations of the area, the Navy's preferred remediation method would remove any remaining munitions through targeted dredging and sediment screening in areas with metallic debris. Navy divers will also screen the bay for and remove any munitions not found through dredging.

Although the munitions themselves are not a source of chemical contamination in the water, the Navy will test sediment samples for contamination before dredging to minimize any potential spreading of the known contaminants in the water during the remediation. Any contaminated sediment will not be returned to the bay.

Cleaning up the contaminants would restore harvesting access to the Suquamish Tribe, which has harvested fish and shellfish in the bay's waters for thousands of years. Harvest is currently prohibited under a Kitsap County Health Advisory due to contamination risks from sewage, oil and chemicals.

This proposed cleanup method would cost an estimated $11.7 million. Alternative proposals, as required by the EPA for comparison, include leaving munitions in the water and restricting public access to the bay, but those plans don't meet the EPA's requirements of long-term effectiveness or reducing potential toxicity.

Dredging and diving the bay for munitions is projected to take three or four years to complete. It would be conducted during the summer months of July and August each year to reduce impact to habitats and fish in the bay.

While the bay is currently open for public use, the Navy cautions mariners and divers from disturbing the sediment bottom by anchoring, dredging or trawling due to explosive hazards. After the cleanup, the bay would be open to the public without use or access restrictions.

The proposed cleanup is part of an ongoing effort to remediate environmental concerns in the Environmental Protection Agency-designated Superfund site of the Jackson Park Housing Complex and Naval Hospital Bremerton. The Navy developed the plan with oversight and input from the EPA, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Suquamish Tribe.

To date, the Navy has spent more than $32 million on clean up efforts in Jackson Park.

The Navy will be holding a meeting for public comments on the proposal on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Landings Community Center, 71 Olding Road. The Navy will be accepting public comments on the proposal until Nov. 18 via written comments posted in the mail or sent by email.

If the proposal is approved, the Navy will finalize a decision between December and February 2018. The clean-up is scheduled to begin in 2019.

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©2017 the KitsapSun (Bremerton, Wash.)
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