2,000 WWII munitions recovered at rehab center's premises on Saipan
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Saipan-- Almost 2,000 munitions and explosives of concern from World War II have been recovered from HOPE Recovery Center's 14-acre compound in Marpi following the completion of an initiative to clear the area of hazardous materials, officials announced today.
Lt. Col. Colonel Eric Marshall, commander of the Honolulu District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also reported that almost 76,000 lbs. of random debris were remediated and moved to recycling during the clearing process called "time critical removal action" or TCRA.
Marshall said the ordnance found at the site posed a threat to the residents and staff of the recovery center, which houses the CNMI Substance Abuse Addiction and Rehabilitation Program.
World War II military occupation and warfare left millions of pounds of unexploded munitions and explosives in CNMI. Some of these munitions were fired but failed to detonate, while other ordnance were abandoned after the war ended. Unexploded bombs, artillery shells, grenades and bullets are still found routinely.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these munitions slowly degrade into the environment and can detonate if disturbed. Explosions also disperse chemicals to air, soil, surface water, sediment, and groundwater.
CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres on Monday said the "interim removal action of hazardous munitions" was carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, HydroGeoLogic, the HOPE Recovery Center Staff and CNMI government departments and agencies.
"In 2017, the USACE conducted surface assessments throughout the HOPE compound, and it was apparent that anomalies were present in plain sight," according to a press release from the governor's office.
"After joining in discussions regarding the ordnance present at the HOPE compound, and learning that the larger ordnance removal project would be completed in 2035, SAAR, through the assistance of local departments and agencies, requested for the prioritization of the HOPE Compound ordnance removal through a time-critical removal action (TCRA) in February 2020."
This project officially started in October 2021, and was completed last month.
“I want to thank our local government departments and agencies involved in this project, and especially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who have guided this project to its completion," Torres said.
"Thank you for your partnership in addressing the issue of munitions that were left here on this land decades ago. The CNMI is thankful for the timely response, prioritization, and completion of this project, so that the critical functions and services of our HOPE Recovery Center can safely continue for our community,” the governor added.
“I deeply appreciate that you recognized and shared with me that, while this land held a history of a battle, it is nice to see that it is now being used to bring healing to its people," Yvette R. Sablan, special assistant at SAAR, told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.