Defence disposes of unexploded ordnance on Quail Island
21 October 2011
Unexploded ordnance and other items, including rocket warheads, found during the first stages of the Quail Island Air Weapons Range hazard-reduction project, will be disposed of by the Department of Defence at the end of this month.
The Royal Australian Air Force, United States and Singapore Air Forces used the air weapons range, which includes Quail, Bare Sand and Djadjalbit Islands, situated roughly 45km west of Darwin, from 1945 until 1979 for air-to-ground bombing, rocketry and gunnery practices. The range was also used by RAAF and allied air forces during World War II.
Defence no longer requires the air weapons range and it is being cleaned up in a hazard-reduction project conducted by Defence contractor G-tek Australia Pty Ltd. Once the clean-up is completed the islands will be handed back to the Northern Territory Government and the traditional owners.
Major Geoff Robinson, hazard-reduction project manager, said a surface and shallow search has identified a number of items for disposal at depths to 0.7m. These items will be destroyed by way of explosive demolition.
“These discoveries are the result of the first of two stages in the sub-surface clearance of the islands,” Major Robinson said.
“A further search will be conducted during the next dry season. This search will extend down to the water table or 3m, and there is a high probability that more unexploded ordnance will be found and then cleared.”
Because of the hazardous nature of the disposal activity, Defence will enforce a 5.5km exclusion zone around the islands during the last week of October. Defence will also issue a formal notice to shipping and air traffic advising of the exclusion zone.
“We understand that the islands are very popular with tourists, especially with people wanting to see the turtles on Bare Sand Island. While Defence has been able to accommodate tourist activity during the remediation project, the unexploded items recovered are hazardous and unauthorised personnel are not allowed within the danger area while the demolition is being undertaken,” Major Robinson said.
Mike Healy, Assistant Secretary Property Services of the Department of Defence said the discovery and disposal of these bombs and warheads showed that the hazard-reduction project was achieving its purpose and would ensure the islands are safe for generations to come.”
Media contact: Media Operations 02 6127 1999