Plum Tree Island National Wildlife Refuge, formerly known as the Plum Tree Island Range, was used by the Defense Department for aerial bombing and gunnery practice from 1917 through the late 1950s. With the exception of waterfowl hunting by permit on Cow Island, the entire refuge remains closed to all public use due to the potential for encountering unexploded ordnance.
Known extensive usage of the southern portion of the refuge for bombing and the presence of unexploded ordnance along the shoreline has prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to establish a danger zone in the shallow water along the southern half of the refuge. This danger zone is marked by warning signs, and disturbance of the sediment bottom is prohibited.
The refuge is being addressed in accordance with the Formerly Used Defense Site program, conducted by USACE under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund. Baltimore District, Army Corps of Engineers has project management authority for all FUDS properties in the commonwealth of Virginia.
USACE and their contractor, Shaw Environmental, Inc., completed the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study of the refuge, working within certain timeframes to avoid wildlife disturbance on the refuge.
The fieldwork consisted of limited shoreline munitions clearance so the team could safely access and collect geophysical information within the interior of the site, using sub-surface metal detecting. The team also surveyed selected site areas to reveal where munitions of concern may be present in the subsurface, and collect and analyze environmental samples to determine if chemical contaminants have entered the environment. This process helped identify areas that may require future cleanup work.
A Decision Document was approved by USACE HQ in September 2019, which specifies selected final remedies and outlines long-term land use controls for the eight (8) former range areas at the site. Remedial Design is underway, including coordinating for safety education and outreach with USFWS, designing land use controls and assessing potential approaches for UXO removal that may minimize environmental disturbance at the site. Click here to access the full Decision Document. (http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Portals/63/docs/Environmental/FUDS/Plum_Tree_FUDS_DD_web.pdf)