Every 12 months, the department must
maintain the berms used in training maneuvers at these
installations. The berms are basically controlled combat zones with
jeeps, tanks and ops trucks tearing up the ground while gunfire and
grenades cause even greater damage.
"In the past, people didn't put much
thought into how to design berms to reduce soil erosion," said
Prasanta Kalita, agricultural engineer at the U of I. But the
sediment eroding into nearby rivers and streams has become a
problem, and like everyone else, the military must observe
"Also, the lead that comes from the
ammunition is strongly tied to the soil particle," said Kalita, "so
clean drinking water is a real concern."
Supported by grants coming through the
Construction Engineering Research Lab, Kalita is working with the
range managers at six military installations: Camp Atterbury in
Indiana, Fort Knox in Kentucky, Fort Campbell in Tennessee, Fort
Benning in Georgia, Fort Carson at Colorado Springs and Fort Bragg
in North Carolina.
When the project began, the United
States was at war with Iraq and access to the bases was restricted.
Since the end of the war, Kalita has set up an extensive set of
water monitoring stations at Camp Atterbury in Indiana to evaluate
water going into the base, water within the base and water leaving
"We are looking at how the water
quality is changing due to berm erosion and lead contamination, and
what is getting out of the installation," said Kalita. He has also
brought samples of lead-contaminated soil from the berms at Camp
Atterbury back to the U of I and will conduct experiments using a
new rainfall simulator to see how much lead comes off those samples.
[to top of second column in this
"This is the second year of a three- to
six-year project," he noted, "and we should have all the monitoring
stations installed at all the forts by the end of this year."
Kalita's research will determine
guidelines to use to design the berms. The guidelines will include
slope of the berm, compaction of the soil, composition of berm
materials and vegetative cover. He will then write design manuals
specific to each site.
Kalita also teaches a class on soil and
water contamination structures, and he plans to include his students
in the project.
"This is an excellent thing -- it kind
of piggybacks on top of the project," he said. "We will develop
waterways, terraces, sediment detention basins and wetlands for
erosion control. My students will get practical experience. They are
all excited to do the work."
Kalita believes that, over time, his
research will enable the Department of Defense to win the battle
against erosion on two fronts -- environmental and economic. The
improved design guidelines will allow range management to contain or
prevent contamination of the area's water and natural resources. It
will also reduce their maintenance schedule on the berms from every
12 months to
every 24 to 30 months, cutting
of Illinois news release]