US Army Corps of Engineers
Norfolk District

Plum Tree Island Formely Used Defense Site

Published July 6, 2018

Formerly known as the Plum Tree Island Range, Plum Tree Island was used by the Defense Department for aerial bombing and gunnery practice from 1917 through the late 1950s.
Plum Tree Island Aerial
Formerly known as the Plum Tree Island Range, Plum Tree Island was used by the Defense Department for aerial bombing and gunnery practice from 1917 through the late 1950s. The former bombing range consisted of approximately 3,200 acres. In 1972, it was transferred to the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and now is considered a Formely Used Defense Site. The entire refuge remains closed to all public use due to the potential for encountering unexploded ordnance.
Photo By: Patrick Bloodgood
VIRIN: 090312-A-OI229-006
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. The former bombing range consisted of approximately 3,200 acres. In 1972, it was transferred to the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 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., are currently in the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study of the refuge. The contractor is working within certain timerframes to avoid wildlife disturbance on the refuge.

The fieldwork consists of limited shoreline munitions clearance so the team can safely access and collect geophysical information within the interior of the site, using sub-surface metal detecting. The team will also survey selected site areas to reveal where munitions of concern are present in the subsurface, and collect and analyze environmental samples to determine if chemical contaminants have entered the environment. This process will help identify areas that may require future cleanup work.


Public Safety Reminder

If you or anyone you know should find a suspicious item or possible munitions, remember they can be very dangerous. Military munitions are designed to withstand long periods of storage under varied and often unfavorable conditions. Depending on climate and soil conditions, the item may look brand new or rusty and deteriorated. Regardless of how an item looks, these munitions can explode if handled.

Never assume an ordnance item is safe to touch. Even the least sensitive items and those referred to as “practice” items may explode if exposed to careless and improper handling. Leave the ordnance handling to professionals. It takes trained experts to assess the situation and to remove any explosive hazard. In the event you come across suspected munitions, follow the three Rs:

  • RECOGNIZE – If you find a suspicious item or possible munitions, do not touch, kick or do anything to disturb the time. Also, remember that munitions found in the water or marsh can be difficult to identify and may appear to be any other metallic or rusty item. Use caution, leave it alone and do not touch it.
  • RETREAT – If you know or suspect that you are near munitions, mark the area with a small item such as a hat or pen, and immediately walk away on the same path you came in on. Do not run.
  • REPORT – Remember the location of the suspicious item and call 911.

For more information on RI fieldwork at Plum Tree Island, contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Norfolk District Public Affairs Office, at 757-201-7241 or Baltimore District Public Affairs Office, at 410-962-2809.


Latest Info

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Announces a Public Comment period on the Proposed Plan for the Plum Tree Island Range Poquoson, Virginia

Please join us for on July 26, 2018
at 2:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. at the
Poquoson City Council Chambers
500 City Hall Avenue, Poquoson, Virginia

The U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, in accordance with Section 300.430(f)(3) of the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan and Section 117(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), announces a public comment period, from July 9, 2018 through August 17, 2018, for the Proposed Plan for the Plum Tree Island Range (PTI) in Poquoson, Virginia. 

The document is available for public review at http://www.poquoson-va.gov