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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

From Bombfields to Brownfields

New RCRA Agreement to Manage Unexploded Ordnance on Pacific Islands

Press Release 12/3/07

EPA and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Department of Public Safety (DPS) finalized a unique agreement to manage and treat unexploded munitions on the Mariana Islands in the Pacific. This RCRA Administrative Order on Consent/Remedial Action Plan (AOC/RAP permit) will help encourage residential and economic development on CNMI by providing a framework to address the threat of unexploded ordnance. As part of the agreement, EPA is proposing to issue a federal RCRA permit for storage and treatment of unexploded ordnance at the Marpi Point open detonation area.  A public meeting on the proposed permit will be held December 11 and public comment will be accepted for 45 days thereafter.

Until now EPA and CNMI have used emergency, short-term measures to address the hazards from the unexploded ordnance. The AOC/RAP gives CNMI authority to quickly and safely store and dispose of this hazardous waste.

Notice of Public Hearing

A federal permit is proposed for storage and treatment of unexploded ordnance at the Marpi Point open detonation area. The Marpi Point location is about one mile north of the Marpi Landfill. 

Inquiries regarding the proposed permit should be directed to either

Mary Blevins (415) 972-3357
Norwood Scott (415) 972-3373

Ms. Blevins and Mr. Scott can both be reached toll-free at (800) 321-7349.

World War 2 Tinian-Saipan munitions-removal team

Safe destruction of unexploded ordnance requires close cooperation of many agencies: EPA Region 9; US Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment; CNMI Div. of Environmental Quality; CNMI Dept. of Public Safety & its contractors; CNMI Dept. of Public Lands

detonated ordnance

Detonation of UXO at permitted Open Burn / Open Detonation unit at Marpi, Saipan

A WWII Legacy on Pacific Islands

Weathered World War 2-era munitions recovered from the islands of Tinian and Saipan

World War II-era munitions are found throughout the islands of CNMI

World War 2 munitions from Tinian-Saipan

Ordnance might be hidden under vegetation

WWII military occupation and warfare left millions of pounds of unexploded munitions and explosives on the Pacific Islands of the CNMI. Some of these munitions were fired but failed to detonate, while other ordnance was abandoned after conflict ended.  Unexploded bombs, artillery shells, grenades and bullets are still found routinely. These munitions slowly degrade into the environment and can detonate if disturbed.  Explosions also disperse chemicals to air, soil, surface water, sediment, and groundwater. Although the CNMI government did not create this hazard, local agencies are taking the initiative to remediate it and to make the island safe for the residents and for future development.  This permit will allow the Dept. of Public Saftey to store and safely dispose of any unexploded ordnance.

The Need for a EPA Permit (AOC/RAP)

Since the waste related to these unexploded ordnance is often a regulated hazardous waste, it must be managed pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  Before the EPA permit, the CNMI government had to contact the EPA for a one-time emergency RCRA permit to allow the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment to detonate the unexploded ordnance at the designated detonation area on Marpi Point.  This permit replaces the emergency process with an established process under local control.  Regulatory controls will be established in CNMI that are similar to other State level controls for explosive response programs in other parts of the United States. EPA Region 9 is one of the first in the nation to implement this innovative tool, and this permit will put together appropriate safeguards to address unexploded ordnance issues. 

The Future of the Bombfields – Residential and Economic Development

In 2006, EPA Region 9 awarded two Brownfields assessment grants to CNMI.  A 2003 survey of the Marpi Village Homestead Brownfields site indicated that eventual cleanup of the island's unexploded ordnance will help protect groundwater - a highly valuable and limited resource on the islands - and open up attractive opportunities for investment and redevelopment. New businesses on these sites are expected to create jobs and increase the tax base.  The Marpi Village Homestead site will allow CNMI to proceed with plans to grant lands to over 500 indigenous individuals and families for the construction of new homes. The AOC/RAP Permit facilitates the redevelopment by providing a safe and legal process to store and dispose of WWII munitions.

World War 2 Tinian-Saipan munitions-removal team

Proper ordnance disposal requires that it be safely transported to an Open Burn/ Open Detonation unit.

World War 2 Tinian-Saipan munitions-removal team

Ordnance detonation on Saipan is conducted in this permitted, fenced-off Open Burn/ Open Detonation unit.

World War 2 Tinian-Saipan munitions-removal team World War 2 Tinian-Saipan munitions-removal team

In preparation for detonation, munitions experts from the US Navy and CNMI arrange ordnance on a sheet of C-4 plastic explosive material. Additional bars of C-4 plastic explosives are layered on top. White detonation cord is connected to the ordnance to detonate it.

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