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VAAP

The U.S. Army should retreat this year from its last holding in the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant, completing the transfer of the former TNT production plant into an industrial park, nature preserve and home for local health, education and Army Reserve facilities.

Scott Bolton, the U.S. Army commander's representative at the VAAP site, said Thursday he expects to hand over 128 acres on the western edge of the former munitions plant soon to Chattanooga and Hamilton County for additional land in the Enterprise South industrial park.

Army contractors are continuing to remove an asbestos landfill under a $20 million contract, and other firms will continue to test potentially contaminated groundwater on portions of another 1,300 acres, Bolton said. The most contaminated site, which once housed the main TNT and acid production plant, was acquired by the city and county five years ago in an early transfer agreement and has since been optioned for possible future expansion by Volkswagen of America.

Bolton told the Restoration Advisory Board on Thursday night that he expects the active cleanup efforts on that site should be completed this year.

"There will be some long-term testing and management of parts of the VAAP site that will probably go on for decades, but that monitoring shouldn't hurt the redevelopment and reuse of this land," Bolton told the Times Free Press.

Paul Parker, director of real property for Hamilton County, said the Army transfer of the wooded and hilly land just south of the Eastside Utility District water treatment plant completes the transformation of what was once a 7,700-acre Army plant.

"This is a real milestone to complete the transfer of the last of the Army's property after years of negotiations and cleanup efforts," Parker said.

On the site of the munitions plant built in the 1940s to fight the Germans in World War II, the German-based carmaker Volkswagen built a $1 billion auto assembly plant over the past two years. VW suppliers, Amazon and other smaller manufacturers have or will invest another $200 million in new facilities on other parts of the former VAAP site.

Another 2,800 acres originally used as a buffer around the Army plant have been converted into the newest city and county park. Last week, the Eastside Utility District paid $210,000 for 13 acres along Bonny Oaks Drive to locate a new office near where the Hamilton County Board of Education located its main office in renovated Army buildings.

The military produced TNT at the Tyner facility during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. But the U.S. Army declared the plant surplus in 1998 and has sold or transferred the land as the site has since been cleaned up.

A half century of munitions production in the World War II-era complex left residues of many toxic chemicals in the soil and water in and around the plant.

Ted Schalk, a Harrison homeowner who lives near the plant on Chickamauga Lake, said his underground wells were contaminated by VAAP.

"The tests indicated there was quite a bit of contamination of the water, but it is improving, and virtually all of the land at VAAP is cleaned up now, at least to industrial use standards," said Schalk, the chairman of the Restoration Advisory Board of area residents. "There are still some hot spots, and I'm sure monitoring will need to continue for many years, but it's certainly much, much better than it once was."

Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at 757-6340 or at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.

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