CFB Gagetown: Clean it Up, Shut it Down!

By Gloria Paul

A 45-kilometre-long strip of prime New Brunswick real estate, with 65 lakes and 251 streams, is the largest combat-training centre in the entire Commonwealth.

CFB/CTC Gagetown is built on land which was rich farmland before its expropriation in the 1950s. Since that time, it has become a toxic wasteland, the target of live bombs (dropped in training exercises by US and other NATO forces) and chemical agents such as Agent Orange, the notorious defoliant tested here in the 1960s.

Health alarm

There are many public-health reasons to be deeply concerned about the base:

The military invested $3 million in the cleanup of its former base in Chatham (also in New Brunswick), funds which went to remove unexploded artillery shells, bombs, and environmental contaminants. Gagetown, on the other hand, has a $10 million, 10-year environmental cleanup fund that will go primarily toward road repair -- which many say will simply make for easier transportation of additional ammunition.

Soil erosion of up to 100 tonnes per hectare, with the inevitable resultant damage to fish habitats, has recently been documented and is now being monitored by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Combat training, now in its sixth decade at Gagetown, necessitates annual spring and/or summer burning of hundreds of acres of land with resulting particle matter fallout. This, coupled with ground and aerial spraying of thousands of litres of herbicides each year, is an effort to kill the lush vegetation on the base, a prerequisite for continued weapons testing despite the long-term costs.

The military have long claimed that CFB Gagetown's pollutants stay on base. Smoke from summer burnings on base was observed recently travelling to Quispamsis near Saint John, N.B., disputing such "assurances." Gagetown is not an island, but rather the spine of New Brunswick and federally designated. Its pollution affects at least the entire province.

After more than 50 years of relentless live-combat on this base, federal funds have finally been allocated for environmental clean-up. There must be a full and transparent acknowledgment of the contamination and a real clean-up of unexploded ordnance -- especially in and around the Rockwell training area, where most bombs have been dropped, likely fracturing the rock with resultant seepage into groundwater. If this does not happen, then "deny and destroy" tactics will likely continue here and in military bases around the country, as it has in other parts of the globe.

What can You Do?

Look into what is taking place at the base near your area -- nuclear-capable weapons testing (Nanoose Bay, BC, also built on expropriated land); germ warfare testing (Suffield in Alberta); chemical testing; firing and bombing ranges (Goose Bay, Labrador).

Gloria Paul is a retired Registered Nurse and currently lives in Hoyt, New Brunswick.

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2005

Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2005, page 12. Some rights reserved.

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