Access to live-fire testing and training ranges is vital in maintaining the capability and readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces. Understanding the nature and extent of residue deposition and fate is critical to ensuring sound management of ranges as sustainable resources.

The primary objective of this project was to provide the Department of Defense (DoD) with techniques to assess the potential for groundwater contamination from residues of high explosives (TNT, PETN, RDX, and HMX) at testing and training ranges.

Technical Approach

Procedures for determining the concentration of post blast residues focused on identifying the appropriate analytes for various range firing activities, identifying major sources of explosives deposition, and overcoming the large spatial variability in the distribution of contamination on ranges. The effects of munition type, range activities, and geographical and climatic conditions were evaluated by sampling on various types of ranges across the United States and Canada. The extent of deposition from higher order detonations was determined by measuring residues from live-fire detonations on snow-covered ranges. The extent of deposition from various degrees of low-order detonations was determined by creating low-order detonations under controlled conditions where full recovery and analysis of residues was possible. Once the composition of post-blast residues was determined, environmental transport parameters were developed. These data have been used to estimate site-specific source terms for use in risk assessment and groundwater transport models.


This project has generated data from active training ranges for a realistic evaluation of explosive residues deposition into the surrounding environment. Sources of variability and bias inherent in range characterization data acquisition were defined. Protocols for characterizing soils containing the highly distributed solid formulations found on the ranges were developed and are currently being promulgated. Descriptions of residues associated with several specific types of firing activities provide a scientifically valid basis for the effective management of training activities to minimize environmental impacts. Differences between residues generated by successful and failed performance of various types of artillery projectiles were quantified. Results of blow-in-place and sympathetic detonation studies provide guidance for minimizing residue releases. Environmental fate and transport process descriptors place energetic residues in perspective among other environmental contaminants and support site-specific groundwater transport and risk assessment models.

Approximately 20 refereed journal articles, 40 technical reports and 100 conference presentations have resulted from this research.


Results of the numerous studies conducted in the field and in the laboratory during this project have contributed to the development of a realistic description of the distribution and fate of explosive residues on testing and training ranges. These results provide DoD with scientifically based approaches that enable environmentally compliant management of live-fire ranges for sustained training. Results have been applied by the U.S. Army Alaska Directorate of Public Works, U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, Hill Air Force Base, and Director Land Environment, Canada. The U.S. EPA has used the results in training courses and on its Hazardous Waste Clean-Up website. Protocols have been promulgated internationally by the Technical Cooperation Program and NATO Research & Technology Organisation. (Project Completed – 2006)