A Boom not Heard…is a Good Thing

In support of World War II, Camp Fannin was established in Smith County in 1943, six miles north of Tyler, Texas, as a U.S. Army Infantry Replacement Training Center for small arms, artillery, and tank gunnery training. The site became home to more than 200,000 soldiers until it was declared surplus in 1946. At that time, the land acquired for Camp Fannin was excessed for privately owned use.

After a war is fought, many short and long-term effects or hazards may remain in various forms of environmental contamination. Like Camp Fannin, many former Department of Defense training sites are host to some of those remaining unseen hazards. The Formerly Used Defense Sites program was established to address these properties that were formerly owned, leased, possessed, or used by U.S. military services before October 1986. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 outlines the proper protocol for environmental cleanup of Formerly Used Defense Sites properties.

The U.S. Army announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would manage the Formerly Used Defense Sites program with over 7,000 properties eligible for the program. Sites are prioritized by risk and are investigated as funds become available.

For Camp Fannin, a Remedial Investigation was conducted under USACE’s Military Munitions Response Program in 2008. Based on the investigation’s results, a Feasibility Study was completed in 2013, which recommended the removal of munitions and explosives of concern.

With its multiple transmitters and receivers, the UltraTEM is better at discerning whole munition items from munitions debris, resulting in fewer excavations to clear munitions from FUDS sites. USACE PHOTO BY NOAH WEINBERG

With Camp Fannin sitting on approximately 14,093 acres, the investigation revealed three areas totaling 1,885 acres requiring surface and subsurface removal of munitions and explosives of concern. Three munitions response sites, required active cleanup to include: 2.36-inch rocket area MRS, 60-millimeter mortar area MRS, and 60/81-millimeter mortar area MRS.

USACE moved forward, once a Record of Decision was signed, which allowed a remedial action to remove munitions and explosives of concern at Camp Fannin. This effort began with several public meetings to inform the public of the hazardous removal activities, educational awareness of possible environmental contamination, and to request rights of entry from the current landowners.

“Gaining rights of entry to complete the munitions and explosives removal was quite a challenge,” emphasized Roland Clubb, Formerly Used Defense Sites project manager. According to Clubb, there were fewer than a hundred landowners, and acquiring the rights was imperative to the project.

Completion of this process ensures that the USACE has access and the ability to remove munitions and explosives of concern from the formerly used properties and are safe for continued residential, recreational, light commercial, and agricultural purposes.


“One of the other biggest challenges was the amount of munitions and explosives of concern and munition debris found and implementing a process to reliably find and remove them amongst all the clutter,” said Clubb.

Engineering and science have advanced since the 1980s, and while many properties were cleaned up of obvious environmental contaminants before releasing from control of the Department of Defense, there was the potential for remaining contamination on these sites.

A contract was proposed and eventually awarded for Camp Fannin as the site of the first non-pilot use of new technology for munitions and explosives of concern removal – Advanced Geophysical Classification. However, as the project moved forward, it was determined that there were former impact areas with a high density of munitions and munitions debris, which proved difficult for cleanup and led to significant delays of up to six months. Fortunately, more sophisticated, and powerful geophysical instruments were becoming available and had been recently approved for use at Formerly Used Defense Sites.

As a result, the Camp Fannin project team selected one of these new instruments, the UltraTEM sensor, for a pilot study in the high-density impact areas. According to its developer, Gap Explosive Ordnance Detection in partnership with Black Tusk Geophysics, the instrument has multiple, high-current transmitters and receivers with improved processing that is much better at discerning munitions debris from whole munitions, thus focusing the target list and reducing the number of excavations needed. With a makeup of four components, UltraTEM is one of the next generations of electromagnetic induction instruments, best put – to detect buried metal that looks like munitions and explosives of concern. But how do we measure its accuracy?

All munitions and explosives remedial actions require an intense Quality Control/Quality Assurance Program. Munitions and explosives of concern replicas made of similar sized pipe were placed around 20 acres of land to verify the instrument would not only locate but identify the pipe size – which it did with 100% accuracy. Similarly, the instrument was also able to predict the type of concerns by comparing the processed data signals with a stored library of known munitions and explosives signals. This on-site pilot test not only validated the instrument’s accuracy, but its use also demonstrated the ability to increase efficiency by reducing labor and project completion time. The UltraTEM was used in all remaining higher density area removals of the project, reducing the field effort in these areas by an estimated 75% compared to previous methods.


“The information gained during the UltraTEM pilot will aid future remedial investigations and action projects to better manage schedules and budgets,” indicated Formerly Used Defense Sites section chief, Dennis Myers. “The level of effort by all parties involved was significantly high, so we have decided to contract those similar types of operations in the future,” Myers concluded.
Myers credited his project manager, Clubb, for his excellent work. “He took this substantial undertaking from its infancy stage to producing a high standard for future projects, and I couldn’t have asked for a better project manager!”

Despite delays, the introduction of the UltraTem method breathed new life into the project and allowed the removal to get back on track. After completion of fieldwork, 3,798 munitions and explosives of concern were removed.

The Formerly Used Defense Sites action at Camp Fannin proved to be extremely useful, as the risk of someone encountering munitions and explosives of concern has significantly reduced for those who live and work in the community. Not hearing a boom is very good in this case!

More information about the Fannin Formerly Used Defense Sites is available at https://www.swf.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Formerly-Used-Defense-Sites/Fannin/