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Gunnery range cleanup to resume

(ran East edition of Pasco Times)

A company in charge of exhuming unexploded military explosives at a former World War II gunnery range has been allowed to resume its cleanup operation in northwest Hernando County now that it has the proper state permits.

According to state Fire Marshal spokeswoman Nina Banister, Environmental Chemical Corp. employee David McDonald successfully completed a state exam Feb. 23 and was awarded permits that will allow him to legally use the type of explosives needed to detonate abandoned ordnance being dug up at the former Brooksville Gunnery Range.

The cleanup, which began in November, was halted Feb. 10 when the Fire Marshal's Office learned that Environmental Chemical, a private company hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, lacked the required state licenses to handle explosives.

Company projects manager Glenn Sweatt said that although his company has a federal explosives license, not obtaining the proper state credentials was most likely an oversight.

"It's never happened to us before," said Sweatt.

The effort to clean up the Brooksville Gunnery Range has a long history. For decades residents of the area north of High Point complained about finding unexploded ordnance in their yards. Last September, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finally announced its plan to spend $1.9-million to remove 4,700 objects suspected of being unexploded ordnance.

So far, crews have found and detonated more than 50 explosives, including unexploded bazooka rockets, mortar rounds and rifle grenades left behind when the range was closed.

Sweatt said he doubted the delay would have much effect on the project's time line. The cleanup is expected to be completed by late August.