Army to Begin Searching UCSD Grounds for Explosives

Photo courtesy of The San Diego History Center.

The Army Corps of Engineers will begin assessing the current risk around undeveloped land around UC San Diego for leftover munitions from when the area was primarily used by the military.

In 2005, debris from mortars, rifle grenades, hand grenades, and practice rockets were found during the construction of student housing. In 2003, a rocket was found during the construction of the La Jolla Medical Center and 11 rockets were found during the construction of housing in 2008. While no military ordnance has been found since and most of the munitions are completely inert, Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Harry Hendler says there is still work to be done in the surrounding UCSD area.  

“There’s always a potential for having some type of risk of explosion or detonation,” Hendler told 10News last Thursday.

Much of UCSD’s campus is directly built over the remains of Camp Matthews, military training grounds, and gunnery ranges. In 1944, Camp Matthews housed 700 men, with 9,000 men rotating in every three weeks for training. In addition to munitions, some of the surrounding area has contaminated soil due to the extensive array of field testing that was conducted.

UCSD Director of Environment, Health, & Safety Corey Singleton said that much of the clean-up and mitigation is fairly standard.

“We work with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Toxic Substances and Control, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board to ensure that the soil meets today’s standards for remediation of any soil that is contaminated,” he said. “Camp Matthews was here before I-5 ran through the middle of campus and much of the land has been developed on UC San Diego and the surrounding community since then.”

The Department of Defense estimates the full clean up of military ordnance will take until 2064 and cost an additional $19.4 million. Even then, the site will likely be monitored for an additional number of years.

Gabe Schneider is the News Editor at The Triton. You can follow him on Twitter @gabemschneider