For many years I taught at Forestdale School in Sandwich. I remember when we first heard reports about water pollution at Camp Edwards, and I read with interest about the subsequent events that led to the Superfund cleanup efforts. Test wells appeared in the woods and backyards of neighbors who live along the school’s perimeter. Teachers and students stopped drinking from the school’s water fountains, and many of us, including many students, lugged bottled water to school instead. (Students’ bottles, precariously stored under desks and chairs, randomly rolled across classroom floors, tripping us teachers on more than a few occasions.)

Overall, Forestdale School’s proximity to the base was a mixed blessing. Roaring skies sometimes interrupted our lessons, only to remind us of our need for national security. Our annual Flag Day celebration abounded with service men and women who met and spoke to our students and landed their flying machines on our playing fields. My students were occasionally invited to the base to learn about the military and the science of groundwater.

Recently I visited Camp Edwards because I wanted to learn more about the proposed multi-purpose machine gun range. Although I was impressed with the hard work that military experts invested in planning and presenting the four-hour tour, I’m now convinced that Cape Codders shouldn’t support construction of the proposed practice range. If the Environmental Management Commission of Joint Base Cape Cod decides to give the project its final stamp of approval, $11 million will not only be wasted but used, I fear, to Cape Cod’s detriment.

Eleven million dollars may not seem like a lot of money for a target range, especially compared to other programs our federal government is proposing to finance, but is a machine gun range really the place we want to spend our hard-earned tax dollars? Are we willing to risk the possibility that the military will once again damage the Cape’s natural environment?

We respect and support our servicemen and women. The problem, however, is that this newest target range will be built on top of Cape Cod’s water supply. Due to past experience, I think this is a bad idea.

Granted, the military didn’t purposely pollute our aquifer with their chemical and fuel spills and contamination from their sewage treatment system. The volatile organic compounds found in several hundred private wells were not placed there intentionally. The military wasn’t aware that fire-fighting foam and lead from practice bullets would seep into our drinking water.

The government has spent decades cleaning up this mess with the finest scientific methods, one of our tour guides explained. Today the cleanup continues, the Environmental Protection Agency assures us. Everything is under control, I was informed.

Please excuse me for my lack of trust.

Will clearing the flora and fauna of 170 more acres on Camp Edwards eventually affect the air our children will breathe in the future and the water they’ll drink? How does the military know without a doubt that, for example, the copper bullets they propose to use on the new range don’t contain some type of lethal chemical? Recently, scientists questioned whether the interaction between copper and cholesterol may be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Can the military assure us that this or some other danger that scientists aren’t aware of yet won’t occur?

Cape Cod has sacrificed more than its fair share for the military. Wouldn’t our tax dollars be better spent helping to clean the PFAS pollution that’s emanating from Otis Air National Guard Base? Helping to pay for the continuing process of cleaning the pollution still contained within the Superfund site? Helping to finance the repair work that has been promised by the Army Corps of Engineers along Sandwich’s depleted coastline? Or helping to ameliorate the effects of severe storm damage and ocean rise?

That the military has done so much for us, that our servicemen and women are dedicated, sincere and knowledgeable people, make it difficult to arrive at the conclusion that quickly advancing plans for the proposed multi-purpose machine gun range should be delayed or abandoned.

We Cape Codders must ask the military to choose their battles carefully. Now is the time to focus on a different enemy, one that’s extremely difficult to deter. Climate change has Cape Cod in its sights. We need the good people in our armed forces to unite with us in our fight for our planet’s survival.

Cape Codders must insist that the MA Environmental Management Commission to Joint Base Cape Cod fulfill its purpose, to faithfully protect the drinking water supply and wildlife habitat of the northern 15,000 acres of the MMR.

Sources:

2. National Institutes of Health — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3655288/ (Studies on copper and cholesterol.)

Ann B. Shea

Mayfair Court

Mashpee

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