$31M cleanup deemed unnecessary at uninhabited wildlife refuge.
CHILMARK — The Navy plans to continue institutional controls, trespass enforcement and a public awareness campaign about the dangers of Nomans Land — a tiny island off Martha’s Vineyard that was previously used as a bombing practice target — instead of undergoing a costly cleanup that could harm the animal habitats there.
Appropriately named, Nomans Land is closed to the public and has been operating as a wildlife sanctuary under the care of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than two decades.
The Navy was considering two remedial options for the island: a $31 million cleanup or the continuance of the institutional controls, public awareness campaign, enforcement work at the island.
The latter was picked as the preferred choice “since the current and future use of the (island) will remain an unstaffed national wildlife refuge,” the Navy wrote in a report released last month.
The report states that the cleanup would disturb the habitats at the sanctuary and still not guarantee total safety from unexploded ordnance. Chemical sampling indicates that there is no significant environmental hazard currently on the island.
“Based on a series of site risk and safety assessments and prior remedial actions, that addressed potential chemical contamination, it was determined the site no longer poses a significant risk to human health, public welfare, and the environment, given the identified future use of the island as an unstaffed national wildlife refuge,” the Navy wrote. “However, the assessment of risk to public safety revealed that a potential explosives safety concern exists due to the presence of residual unexploded ordnance on the island.”
The decision has not been finalized and the Navy is calling on the public to weigh in on the project. A virtual public hearing is scheduled for the end of the month.
From 1943 to 1996, the 628-acre island was used by the Navy to practice dropping bombs, and the island is possibly riddled with unexploded ordnance.
The island was designated a wildlife refuge in 1970 and was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998. The Navy still has a federal environmental responsibility for the island.
The island has been closed to the public and instances of trespassing are rare. Mostly upland and wetland areas, the island is mainly home to migratory birds. Last year, the Fish and Wildlife Service ferried 13 New England cottontails to the refuge to help rebuild the population.
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