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Corps says it has completed survey of old World War II practice range in Hernando

Ralph Colon examines maps showing the areas covered by the old Brooksville Turret Gunnery Range site and the areas affected by the cleanup of the site in 2006 at Central High School. The Army Corps of Engineers held a public workshop to discuss the munitions removal project, which began in earnest in 2008. The corps conducted another meeting Tuesday night to let residents know the project has been completed.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times (2006)

Ralph Colon examines maps showing the areas covered by the old Brooksville Turret Gunnery Range site and the areas affected by the cleanup of the site in 2006 at Central High School. The Army Corps of Engineers held a public workshop to discuss the munitions removal project, which began in earnest in 2008. The corps conducted another meeting Tuesday night to let residents know the project has been completed.

BROOKSVILLE — After nearly five years spent scouring for explosives used at a World War II practice range, the Army Corps of Engineers has declared the project complete.

Residents from neighborhoods surrounding High Point gathered Tuesday night at Central High School for a public presentation detailing the findings from a $7.1 million cleanup of a 70-acre site north of State Road 50 that served as the Brooksville Turret Gunnery Range.

"From this point, we consider the project in a remedial design phase," said corps project manager Frank Araico. "We believe we've found everything that we are likely to find there."

The three-phase cleanup began in earnest in 2008 and was conducted by a private company that used high-intensity metal detectors to search about 275 private properties. In all, 321 bazooka rockets and mortar rounds, 62 of which were found to contain high explosives, were discovered buried beneath the soil. All of the ordnance was removed.

The conclusion of the active search ended a longtime concern for residents in the area, some of whom claimed to have found discarded ordnance on their property during excavation for wells, swimming pools and gardens.

Al Pierson, who recently bought a home on White Pine Avenue, said he learned from neighbors about the abandoned range and decided to attend the meeting out of curiosity.

"It's interesting to know all of that was going on so many years ago," Pierson said. "I would have liked to have seen the stuff they found out there."

From 1943 to 1946, the Department of Defense leased from the state approximately 10,000 acres and carved out an area for the range to train soldiers how to use grenade launchers and mortars. While the military did an initial sweep for leftover ordnance after the war, property owners who began moving into the area during the 1960s started discovering the explosives.

Beginning in 1999, the corps examined portions of two areas of the site with special metal detectors. Each area spanned 1 square mile.

The corps concluded that the majority of the ordnance was clustered near the center of a section just north of the High Point retirement community.

An agency spokesman said the corps will continue to monitor the site every five years for possible environmental contamination. Meanwhile, if residents in the area discover a suspicious object that they believe could be an explosive, they should refrain from touching it and contact the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Corps says it has completed survey of old World War II practice range in Hernando 06/26/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 10:29pm]
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