ARCHIVED - Turning up the heat at Canadian Army firing range positions for a cleaner environment

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Article / April 2, 2015 / Project number: 14-0253

Ottawa, Ontario — Soldiers need to train with live-fire munitions which contain energetics (explosives), propellants (fuels) and heavy metals (shell casings). Some of these components could present legal compliance issues and other risks when released into the environment.

The Canadian Army Environmental Program investigates these risks and develops solutions that will ensure that Canadian Army Range and Training Areas remain sustainable into the future.

A number of solutions have been studied, such as:

  • Reducing toxicity at the source – the Canadian Army (CA) could use munitions containing fewer toxic components,
  • Limiting introduction of toxins into the environment – the CA could use updated models of firing ranges and modern practices to capture contaminants before they disperse into the environment, and
  • Limiting exposure – for contaminants that reach the environment, the CA could remove or contain them before they reach sensitive receptors, such as a water table or animal habitat.

The Canadian Army Environmental Program has recently had some success with a trial in the third area of mitigation, that of limiting exposure. Nitroglycerin is a toxic component of propellant formulations that accumulates at firing positions on various types of firing ranges.

In September 2014, environmental personnel at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Canada investigated the effectiveness of using infrared heat to remediate nitroglycerin-contaminated soils at anti-tank firing positions. Infrared heat was applied using a commercially available Tarmac heater, normally used as part of asphalt road resurfacing processes and resulted in surface temperatures reaching between 400 and 500 degrees Celsius. After one hour of burning, no nitroglycerin was detected at the soil surface and after two hours, no nitroglycerin was detected at a soil depth of five inches.

Tarmac surface heaters are readily available, so their technology can be quickly applied in training areas and used to clear ground contaminants at firing positions. It is also an excellent example of the methods used by the Canadian Army Environmental Program to research and identify effective and operationally viable environmental solutions to reduce the risk of contamination related to training exercises.

By Justin Thomas, Directorate Land Environment

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