U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leading a cleanup of contaminated sites; no word on completion date
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Parts of the Camp Hale area, on the White River National Forest between Minturn and Leadville, have been closed due to the discovery of debris that contains potentially hazardous asbestos.
According to U.S. Forest Service Eagle/Holy Cross district ranger Dave Neely, the asbestos was first reported about a year ago by a visitor to the area familiar with the material. Neely said that individual reported tile-like debris that may have been part of the historic military installation in the area.
That individual reported the asbestos to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who subsequently notified the Forest Service. Neely said further investigations in the area and consultation with the Corps and state health officials led to the closure orders.
Camp Hale was used as military training area during World War II, so it’s possible the asbestos is related to the construction materials used in those facilities.
Neely said the Corps is the lead agency for remediation in that area due to the presence of fen wetlands. The two agencies have been working together to mitigate potentially hazardous ordnance and explosive materials that have also been found in the area.
“Our primary concern is the safety of the public and our employees and we ask everyone to comply with these closure orders,” he said. “We will work closely with the appropriate agencies to assess the situation and stabilize the site and develop a long-term action plan. We will keep the public informed as we make progress.”
The Corps has already hired a contractor to start working on the removal as early as next week, he added.
About 300 acres with heaviest asbestos concentrations will be completely closed until the remediation is complete. A separate closure will affect about 1,100 acres, with travel allowed only on roads and trails during the snow-free season. Afther there’s about a foot of snow on the ground, off-road travel will be allowed in the area.
Camp Hale was constructed during WWII and served as the training site for the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. The military site was deactivated in 1965 and ownership was transferred to U.S. Forest Service in 1966.
Information relating to friable asbestos can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/help.html.