Army Proposes Resuming Fort Richardson Live-Fire Training

Restrictions were imposed in 1990 on the practice when white phosphorus from Army munitions was found to be killing ducks and swans on Eagle River Flats. A Superfund cleanup of the area is about to be completed.

The U.S. Army's draft environmental impact statement proposes to restore year-round live fire training for troops at Fort Richardson, a large base in Anchorage, Alaska, where restrictions on live fire training have been in effect since 1990, when white phosphorus from Army munitions was found to be killing ducks and swans on Eagle River Flats. "Winter only" firing is currently in effect -- firing takes place only when the ice is thick enough to ensure underlying white phosphorus is not disturbed.

Addison D. Davis IV, deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health), signed the Federal Register notice about the DEIS that was published Wednesday. Comments will be accepted for the next 60 days.

The notice says Fort Richardson is home station for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and 25th Infantry Division "and must, therefore, provide the training opportunities necessary for this Brigade to attain and sustain certification." Personnel have been traveling great distances to train elsewhere when live firing at Eagle River Flats, which has been the live-fire training area for Fort Richardson units since the 1940s, is not allowed, it states.

After the white phosphorus problem was discovered, the Army carried out a major Superfund (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) cleanup to eliminate white phosphorus from the local ecosystem. That cleanup is about to be completed. For a description and photographs of the cleanup work, along with a chart showing how white phosphorus levels dropped in a pond that was drained to allow the white phosphorus to oxidize harmlessly, visit this site.

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