RAB (Restoration Advisory Board) visits Vieques east end

Photos by Wanda Bermudez

May 19, 2010

On May 19, 2010, the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) was invited by the Navy on a field trip to the lands used for bombing target by the Navy untill 2003 at the eastern most tip of Vieques. The RAB is the community group that oversees the Navy cleanup process in Vieques. The purpose of the visit was for the RAB to view the vegetation removal step in the process of retrieving unexploded ordnance and other debris from the former Navy target area during the cleanup effort mandated by CERCLA law for a SuperFund site. The group was accompanied by personnel from Puerto Rico's DRNA, EPA, and EQB, and from Fish and Wildlife Service. The group was escorted at all times by Navy personnel trained in unexploded ordnance identification and recovery who explained the process which is currently at the step of removal of surface debris and items of concern. The Navy has been working in Vieques cleanup for 6 years already and estimate they have more than 10 years worth of work to be done. The current cleanup involves only dry land. As of April 2010, over 20,500 live munitions and aproximately 7,700 tons of munitions debris and range related debris have been removed from the east and west side of Vieques. No removal has been started on the marine environment surrounding the target areas or on the lagoons. No work has been done under the land surface either except for some beaches that have been cleared to 4 feet deep to protect the marine turtles and the volunteers doing the turtle nesting monitoring. No underwater area has been cleared for surface dangers and no land area (except the sandy part of some beaches to 4 feet) has been subsurface cleared. That is why this area remains very dangerous and is off limits by land and sea. These areas are clearly marked as off-limits by the use of sea buoys and signs posted at the beaches and roads.
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