Navy responds promptly about Nomans

The Navy recently answered questions first posed by The Times at a Sept. 29 hearing on Nomans Land. Those questions went unanswered at the time. Initially a Navy official said the questions would not be answered until the Navy has issued a determination on what degree of munitions cleanup, if any, it will do on Nomans Land. The Navy has cleared thousands of munitions from the island, which was a target range for decades. 

David Barney, a Navy official, answered the questions through an email sent by a naval spokesman. 

 The first set of questions posed by The Times were, “Were cluster munitions dropped on the island? Was depleted uranium ammunition fired on the island? Was napalm dropped on the island?”

Barney wrote, “Throughout Navy environmental-cleanup evaluations and actions there has been no evidence to suggest any of these munitions were ever expended on Nomans Land Island.”

The next question posed by The Times was singular: “How many kilos of lead is estimated to be on the island?”

To which Barney wrote, “There is no estimate for the amount of lead that may have been expended on Nomans Land Island. As pointed out during the Navy presentation on Sept. 29, 2020, more than 551,780 pounds of munitions-related debris was removed in 1998; 16,119 pounds removed in 2008; and 3,285 pounds removed in 2014.”

The third set of questions The Times posed was, “What type of geiger counter was employed to scan for depleted uranium, and was it calibrated for alpha particles? Also, is there any evidence there’s a geologic freshwater link between the island and the Vineyard’s aquifers?”

To which Barney wrote, “Duke Engineering & Services Environmental Laboratory surveyed the munitions, munitions fragments, and target debris for radiological contamination … The radiological screening consisted of 34 in situ gamma-ray spectrometry measurements in and around the staging area, using a high-purity germanium detector, supplemented with direct low-level gamma measurements made with a Ludlum M-19 Micro R Meter. Measurements were then compared with six reference background radiation measurements performed on Martha’s Vineyard. No radioactivity above background was detected on any of the staged material. There is no evidence of a freshwater link between Noman’s Land Island and Martha’s Vineyard.”

Asked about liability for any damage, injury, or death resulting from munitions that travel outside the exclusion zone, Barney responded, “It is inappropriate to speculate about possible future damages given the number of unknown factors.”