September 24, 2008

Old Fireworks Taint Water at Camp Bonneville


Eighty-six years of pounding from Army rifle ammo, howitzer shells and other explosives, and it turns out that the dirtiest thing that ever happened at Camp Bonneville had a unique Clark County flavor.


It was a one-time thing, said Clark County engineer Jerry Barnett: Years ago, some county sheriff's deputies had confiscated a bunch of fireworks and were looking for a place to drop them off. Maybe they could use Landfill 4, a two-acre site at the north side of Camp Bonneville?

"The Army had control of that site at that time," Barnett said Tuesday. "They just allowed them to put that in there."

Today, the ammonium perchlorate in those fireworks has leached out into a huge plume of contamination in the water table around the old landfill.

The Army and the cops "obviously didn't anticipate" the problem, said Barnett, who is managing the takeover of Bonneville to become a county park.

But here's the good news: as long as nobody drinks water extracted from near the fireworks site, the future Camp Bonneville park will pose no health threat to visitors.

That was the finding of a federal agency Tuesday.

Unexploded ordnance at the 3,840-acre camp north of Camas, used as a training ground by the U.S. Army until 1995, is being cleaned up for the park's eventual reuse.

"Exposure to site-related chemicals might have occurred in the past, or may occur in the future," the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry wrote, "but not at levels likely to cause adverse health effects in humans."

The agency is part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though the public isn't allowed on the camp while cleanup continues, the agency made four recommendations for policies to follow when the public is present:

Future visitors should be educated about the possible appearance of unexploded ordnance and what to do if they find it.

Groundwater near Landfill 4 - an approximately 2-acre site in the extreme northern area of the park - should not be used for drinking.

"No Hunting" signs should be posted throughout the property.

Firing ranges in the park are not recommended.

Copies of the public health assessment are available from the agency at or at the Vancouver Mall Community Library on the second floor of the mall.

Michael Andersen covers Clark County government: 360-735-4508 or

[email protected]


Originally published by MICHAEL ANDERSEN Columbian staff writer.

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