Managing Contaminants on Ranges

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The Department of Defense’s test and training ranges are a critical asset for the military. Maintaining these ranges is essential to enable troops to train in realistic circumstance at appropriate scales and to develop and test new weapons systems.  It is DoD policy ( DoD Directive 4715.11) to ensure the long-term viability of operational ranges while protecting human health and the environment.

Testing and training require the firing of live ammunition, which can result in contamination of the ranges by toxic metals and munitions constituents, the energetic chemicals that power the munitions. If these chemicals are transported to the groundwater and migrate off base, live-fire training and testing activities may be curtailed. It is DoD policy to conduct an operational range assessment program to determine if and where such releases may occur and prevent them.

Test and training ranges present unique challenges for characterization, control, and treatment technologies. The ranges often encompass thousands of acres, have limited historical records, and are subject to continued use. SERDP and ESTCP investments include the following:

Identifying and Evaluating Sources

Sources of munitions constituents on testing and training ranges vary, depending on the type of testing and training in practice. In addition, source terms may be localized and distributed on areas ranging from less than an acre to more than 10,000 acres. Understanding the magnitude and character of potential sources and developing cost-effective methods to measure source terms, while also maintaining operations on the range, is critical to sustaining the ranges.

Characterizing Fate and Transport

Many of the munitions constituents are unique chemicals. Their fate and transport are not fully understood. Efforts are underway to develop better understanding of these processes for military unique compounds. Such knowledge will lead to improved protection of the troops and of natural resources.

Protecting Groundwater Resources

Because testing and training ranges must continue operations, munitions constituents may continue to pose a threat to groundwater resources. Projects are focused on developing and demonstrating technologies that allow for continued operations while preventing migration of contaminants to groundwater.


Ranges pose unique challenges as they are required for ongoing training and it is necessary for site managers to ensure that contaminants are controlled. Ongoing work focuses on improved monitoring technologies to aid in the sustainable management of contamination of munitions constituents.

Assessing Potential Ecological Impacts

Many of DoD’s testing and training ranges encompass sensitive ecological habitats. Protection of these natural resources is critical. Research and demonstrations are underway to assess potential ecological impacts of the military-unique munitions constituents.

FY 2020 New Start Project Selections

FY 2020 New Start Project Selections for the Environmental Solicitation – SERDP; ESTCP

Workshop Report:
Research and Demonstration Needs for Management of Munitions Constituents (2015)
Report to Congress on Sustainable Ranges
Workshop Report:
Technology Needs for DoD Operational Range Assessment and Management (2007)

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