The Department of Defense’s testing and training ranges are a critical asset for the military. Maintaining these ranges is essential for mission-readiness and to develop and test new weapons systems. Testing and training necessarily results in the introduction of munitions constituents and some heavy metals to surface soils. If these chemicals are transported to soil and groundwater, active training and testing on ranges may be affected. DoD directive 4715.11 ensures the long-term viability of operational ranges while protecting human health and the environment. Due to the unique challenges presented by munitions constituents, SERDP and ESTCP have invested in research in identifying and evaluating sources, characterizing fate and transport, addressing contaminant migration to groundwater sources, technologies for improved monitoring, and assessment of potential ecological impacts.

SERDP and ESTCP are holding two webinars on munitions constituents, one on March 9, 2017 on munitions constituents on active terrestrial military training areas; and the other on March 23, 2017 on munitions constituents in aquatic systems.

The first webinar focuses on two prior ESTCP Projects of the Year, ER-200216 and ER-200920. Under project ER-200216, Dr. Steve Larson from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and his team validated the long-term degradation of explosive contaminants and the immobilization of metal contaminants in active grenade range soil via topical lime addition. The study showed that hydrated lime appeared to be a useful technology to manage explosives on hand grenade ranges. This approach reduced transport of munitions constituents residues into the groundwater, and stabilized metal components of the munitions. Under project ER-200920 also led by Dr. Steve Larson, the team validated soil erosion control using a modified biopolymer as a substitute over synthetic polymers. The study confirmed that on a large scale, a biopolymer soil amendment can stabilize a steep slope and prevent soil slumping and erosion. The study also established the most effective and efficient means of applying the biopolymer. Register for this webinar here.


The second webinar focuses on two projects addressing the risks posed by military munitions present in underwater environments. Under SERDP project ER-2341, Dr. Todd Bridges and Dr. Gui Lotufo of the U.S. Army ERDC and their team compiled and reviewed existing evidence regarding environmental exposure and risks posed by munitions constituents in aquatic systems. The available sampling data collected from multiple underwater military munitions sites indicated that munitions constituents are present at detectable levels only within close proximity (e.g., 1 m) of underwater munitions. Empirical and modeled data indicated that concentrations of munitions constituents in the water and sediment are typically in the low ppb (µg/L or µg/kg) range or lower. Available toxicity data derived for freshwater and marine fish, invertebrates and autotrophs were compiled and species sensitivity distributions were derived. Risk to biota was determined to be low at these sites based on a comparison of toxicity data with the measured or modeled site concentrations.

Under ESTCP project ER-201433, Dr. Gunther Rosen of SPAWAR and his team focused on the validation of a commercially available in situ passive sampling device, the Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler (POCIS). The device is capable of continuous sampling which allows detection and identification of chemicals in an integrated manner, providing time-weighted average concentrations, and the detection of chemicals that rapidly dissipate or degrade in the environment following release from the source. The POCIS technology provides an alternative to traditional sampling methods (e.g., grab sampling) at sites where fluctuation in concentrations are expected to occur, such as near underwater munitions. Unlike samplers that rapidly achieve equilibrium using very high surface area to sorbent volume, POCIS exhibits negligible loss rates and long times to reach equilibrium, allowing small masses of chemical from episodic release events to be retained in the device by the end of the deployment period. Register for the webinar here.