Wednesday, March 07, 2001

Sound of spring: BOOM

Demolition season begins at Army depot

The Associated Press

        RICHMOND, Ky. — As demolition season begins at Blue Grass Army Depot, neighbors prepare for house-shaking, window-rattling explosions and officials prepare for complaining.

        Workers at the depot annually blow up as much as 400 tons of obsolete land mines, artillery shells and other explosives.

        Teresa Smith's home sits just 2,500 feet from the depot's demolition grounds.

[photo] These projectile shells will be recycled as part of the Blue Grass Army Depot disposal effort.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
        “The house shakes, the windows rattle,” said Ms. Smith, of Madison County. “It's really loud.”

        Military installations throughout the world ship their obsolete munitions to the depot, and officials say the cheapest and safest way to destroy the weapons is detonation in outdoor pits.

        Depot officials say they want to be good neighbors and are exploring alternatives to “open-air” detonations, which not only produce a potentially damaging — and loud — shock wave but also kick up giant plumes of dust.

        The search for disposal alternatives has become urgent because the increased residential areas of the southern and eastern edges of the depot.

        The demolition season runs roughly from March to September, depending on the weather. That's when the phones begin ringing with complaints

        Since 1995, eight people have filed claims against the Army, ranging from $185 to $150,000, for damage ranging from cracked foundations to warped door frames.

        Federal officials have dismissed seven of the claims, saying there is no proof the demolition caused the homeowners' problems.

        Ralph Shearer, who runs the depot's demolition program, lives just outside the depot and wants to find a quieter disposal method.

        “Most of my neighbors understand that I have a job to do,” Mr. Shearer said. “But some of them don't mind telling me when they think we're not doing things right.”


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