A Grassroots Campaign for Safe Disposal of Waste Munitions

Banner Cease Fire 3 photos

Cease Fire LOGO green flameThe CEASE FIRE Campaign seeks to protect human health and the environment by calling for the immediate implementation of safer alternatives to open air burning, detonation and non-closed loop incineration/combustion of military munitions. These alternatives must incentivize waste prevention and recycling; prevent, to the greatest possible extent, the release of toxic emissions and pollutants; and advance the principles of environmental justice by assuring that all people enjoy the same degree of protection and access to the decision-making process.  We pursue these goals through peaceful non-violent action and democratic organizing consistent with the Jemez Principles.

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For more information

      • Email: info@cswab.org
      • Phone: 608/643-3124





Map Army CAD demil sites 2015 The Secretary of the Army serves as the single manager for conventional ammunition and is responsible for demilitarizing the U.S. Department of Defense’s conventional (non-nuclear/non-biological/non-chemical) ammunition stockpile and more than 300,000 missiles and missile components. The U.S. Army Audit Agency reported that this stockpile had grown to more than 557,000 tons as of March 2009 and could exceed 1.1 million tons by FY 2025 representing a $2.8 billion demilitarization liability.

The U.S. government is considering two treaties that, if ratified, would significantly impact U.S. demilitarization operations. One treaty is the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the other is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. DOD has an inventory of 471,726 tons of cluster munitions and 23,436 tons of anti-personnel landmines that will have to be disposed of if the United States ratifies the two treaties.

All munitions have a finite service life and will at some state need to be either expended or disposed of. Disposal can involve dumping, resale and demilitarization. The three major types of demilitarization are uncontained thermal treatment such as Open Burning and Open Detonation (OB/OD), contained industrial thermal treatments such as incineration, and other industrial treatments such as oxidation and biodegradation.



OB OD basic table August 2016 imageOpen detonation of ammunition causes the dispersion of heavy metals (cadmium, chromium, lead, etc.), energetic compounds, perchlorate, nitrogen oxides and other munitions-related contaminants to the environment. It is typically conducted directly on the ground surface, in open pits or trenches, or via buried charges.

Open burning is still routinely used for disposal of propellants and pyrotechnics. It is conducted on the ground surface or in burn pans. Dunnage (such as wood) and supplemental fuels (such as fuel oil or kerosene) are often added to aid the burning. Like detonation, open burning produces an uncontrolled release of toxins to the air and the surrounding environment.

An incinerator (combustor) is a facility for the controlled burning of waste which can emit dioxins, PCBs, heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other contaminants. Incinerators with names like gasification, pyrolysis, plasma arc, and waste-to-energy all emit dioxins and other harmful pollutants. However the core environmental impacts of all types of incinerators are the same.

Beginning in 2000, some countries progressively moved away from OB/OD. That year, the Canadian Department of National Defence instituted severe restrictions on OB/OD operations as a result of reports of environmental contamination at several Canadian Forces bases and ammunition depots. A number of countries, notably Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, have banned OB/OD if alternative processes are available.

Prescribed range fires, decontamination ovens, and open burning of explosives-contaminated buildings and other infrastructure are other sources of uncontrolled toxic releases to the environment. The prescribed range fires at Fort Ord, California, for example, are intended to clear vegetation in order to facilitate the recovery and removal of unexploded ordinance and munitions. However, high levels of smoke lead to poor air quality due to an increase in fine particulate matter (PM). Inhalation of PM has been linked to increased risks of heart attacks, strokes and respiratory ailments.

In 2002, three-quarter-mile-long Load Line 1 was set ablaze at Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant in Nebraska, filling the prairie sky with thick black smoke. Click on the image to view the video.




In the past 25 years, alternatives to the incineration of hazardous waste have emerged due to the work of communities, EPA, and the Department of Defense (DOD). These technologies are being used by the DOD to destroy energetics and chemical warfare agents. These technologies could be readily applied to conventional munitions and other types of hazardous waste.

Under the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment program, the military established a process for identifying and demonstrating alternatives to incineration for the demilitarization of chemical weapons. Seven of these technologies were evaluated for applicability to RCRA hazardous waste: chemical oxidation, chemical reduction (2), biological degradation, supercritical water oxidation (2), and thermal plasma. Based on information provided by technology providers, an EPA report published in 2000 found that all seven of these technologies have the potential to treat a wide range of RCRA waste streams including energetics. Unlike incinerators, these alternatives are designed and operated so that they will not produce dioxin or dibenzofurans, technology providers said.

In Camp Minden Children Grow up healthy2001, a report by the National Research Council (NRC) committee identified technologies for disposal of “non-stockpile” chemical weapons wastes that pose low risk to workers and communities, compared to incineration. Non-stockpile chemical weapons are a category of warfare materials leftover from chemical weapons production, testing and training. The NRC committee’s report, “Disposal of Neutralent Wastes,” examined eight non-incineration disposal processes and ranked them by criteria such as safety, technical effectiveness and pollution prevention. The committee found that “the benefits of [some non-incineration] technologies over incineration include low worker risk, public acceptance, low risk to the surrounding community, and simplicity of operation.”

Although focused on chemical weapons destruction, many of the techniques reviewed have application to conventional weapons as well. These technologies include Supercritical Water Oxidation, Detonation of Ammunition in a Vacuum-Integrated Chamber, and Detonation Chambers.

In many cases, resource recovery can be more cost effective than incineration. In 2001, the Department of Defense reported that small arms ammunition was demilitarized by a private contractor through a resource recovery methodology at a cost of $1 a ton versus $1,200 to $1,500 per ton for incineration at a government facility.

With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2007 passage, the Army gained the legal authority to sell recyclable munitions materials resulting from demilitarization and reinvest the proceeds into R3 operations. Proceeds from the reinvestment are estimated at $2-3 million annually. The new law complimented other existing demilitarization initiatives – the Demil Research and Development Program which focuses on disassembly and reusing existing munitions and Design for Demil which seeks to influence future munitions design for easier disassembly.

While capabilities exist to deal with most surplus munitions, new energetic materials and new munitions are becoming more and more complex. Before 1990 almost all new munitions had energetics that were TNT based – today this is rarely so. The increasing variety of energetics will increase both the difficulty and cost of disposal.


Prescribed munitions range fire at Fort Ord, California 2013.  Photo by Mike Morales.



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From the start of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military and its contractors burned solid and hazardous waste in open burn pits on or near military bases. At the Balad Air Base in Iraq, up to 227 metric tons of waste were burned daily including asbestos, solvents, unexploded ordnance, hydrogen cyanide, batteries, tires, plastics, and medical wastes.  Military jet fuel was used as an accelerant. The military’s burn pits emitted particulate matter laced with heavy metals and toxins like sulfur dioxide, arsenic, dioxins, and hydrochloric acid that are linked to serious health ailments. Among them are chronic respiratory and cardiovascular problems, allergies, neurological conditions, several kinds of cancer, and weakened immune systems.


Alternet: Will US Finally End Toxic Burning 2016
Inside EPA: Coalition Pushes to End Open Burning of Munitions 29 Feb 2016
Baldwin Amendment for NAS Study of Alternatives to OB/OD Incineration May 2016
Truthout Human and Environmental Toll of Open Burning 2016
Huffington Post: Insane Military Practices of Burning Explosives Feb 2017


Deployed Alternatives: U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center July 2013
EPA Region 4: Issues with OB OD PPT April 2016
MuniRem Environmental Submittals 2016
Supercritical Water Oxidation BAE Presentation Dec 2016


Camp Minden: EPA Letter Confirming Dismantling Required Jan 2017
Camp Minden: Parish Resolution Opposing Permanent Incinerator 2016

CEASE FIRE brochure 6 Sept 2016
CEASE FIRE Fact Sheet: Alternatives to Burning April 2016
Cese al fuego: Alternativas a la quema 2016
NEW!  CEASE FIRE Fact Sheet Federal Facilities with RDX Contamination Apr 2017
CEASE FIRE Fact Sheet: Health Effects of Burning Emissions 2016
GAIA Fact Sheet: Gasification, Pyrolysis and Plasma Incineration
Military Munitions Rule Webinar Compressed
United Nations Statement Vidas Viequenses Valen English 20 June 2016


Anniston Army Depot HWP 2007 updated 2011 (AL)
Blue Grass Army Depot – Detonations Resume Notice 2016
Bluegrass Army Depot RCRA Permit Mod Request 2014 (KY)
Bluegrass Army Depot Title V Permit Renewal Application 2010 (KY)
Cape Canaveral AF Station OB OD permit 3-13-15 (FL)
Chemring formerly Martin Elec OB OD permit 11-27-07 (FL)
Chemring Ordnance RCRA Part B Permit Application 2016 (FL)
China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station Permit 11-16-2010
Colfax Clean Harbors 2007 permit from EPA website (LA)
Colfax Clean Harbors Draft Modified Haz Waste Permit 2015 (LA)
Colfax Clean Harbors Class 3 Permit Mod Request NOD #2 2015 (LA)
Colfax Clean Harbors Non-Compliance & Inspection Report 2016 (LA)
Colfax Clean Harbors RCRA Subtitle C Site ID Form 2014 (LA)
Colfax Clean Harbors Stormwater Draft Permit 7923911 from LDEQ website (LA)
Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center Title V Permit (IN)
Crane RCRA permit Document 80118917 (IN)
Crane RCRA permit Attachments 2013 (IN)
Crane RCRA Part A application revised 2013 (IN)
Crane Title V permit amendment 2015 80189254 (IN)
Edwards Air Force Base APPLICATION Part B EOD Range
Eglin Air Force Base A Part B Subpart X OB_OD permit 1995 (FL)
Eglin Air Force Base OB_OD application 2001 (FL)
Eglin Air Force Base 2001 Storage and Thermal Treatment of Haz Waste (FL)
Eglin Air Force Base Final Permit Receipt March 2016 (FL)
Eglin Air Force Base Notated Pages from RCRA Part B re allowable wastes June 2016
Fort Polk Hazardous Waste Operating Permit (LA)
Fort Polk Metals Pesticides Background Study 1998 (LA)
Fort Polk Metals Pesticides Background Study Tables 1998 (LA)
Hawthorne Army Depot RCRA Permit 2013 (NV)
Hawthorne RCRA Permit Renewal Fact Sheet (NV)
Holston Army Ammunition Plant Mod 1 (A-1009) 12072015-1 (TN)
Holston Army Ammunition Plant Report Aug 2015 PCB Inspection
Holston Army Ammunition Plant Title 5 Operating Permit 558406 (TN)
Holston Army Ammunition Plant Redacted Report on Safer Alternatives 2012 (TN)
Holston RCRA Subpart X Open Burn Permit undated
Holston RCRA Subpart X Open Burn Permit approval 2011
Holston Title V Renewal Application – Section 16 OB (TN)
Holston OBOD Permit TNHW-148 w response to comments (TN)
Iowa Army Ammunition Plant Title V Permit 2012 (IA)
Kilgore Flares Part B Applications 2015 – large file (TN)
Kilgore Flares Request Temp Open Burn Increase 14 Feb 2017
Kilgore Flares TDEQ Approval Temp Burn Increase 24 Feb 2017
Letterkenny Army Depot NPDES permit OB OD grounds (PA)
Letterkenny Army Depot RCRA Part B Permit 2014 (PA)
McAlester Army RCRA Permit w Table of Contents 2013 (OK)
McAlester Army RCRA Permit Waste Analysis Section 2013 (OK)
McAlester Army RCRA Permit Deactivation Furnace Section 2013 (OK)
McAlester Army RCRA Permit OB OD Section 2013 (OK)
Radford AAP Corrective Action Permit Application 2015 (VA)
Radford AAP Open Burning 2013 Permit (VA)
Radford DU Informational Sheet FINAL May 2016
Radford Arsenal Screening Levels Ecological Risk Assessment 2005 (VA)
Red River Army Depot Hazardous Waste Permit 2012 (TX)
Redstone U.S. Army Garrison 2015 Emergency Permit OB OD (AL)
Redstone U.S. Army Garrison 2016 Emergency Permit Application (AL)
Redstone U.S. Army Garrison OB OD 2010-20 final permit (AL)
St. Marks Powder OB OD permit 2-6-12 (FL)
Sierra Army Depot OB OD Closure Documentation (CA)
Tooele Army Depot Permit Attachment 6 OB OD Static Fire (UT)
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Iowa Army Ammunition Plant-ATSDR Beryllium and Depleted Uranium 2003 (IA)
Iowa Army Ammunition Plant Radiological Survey 2006
Lake City AAP Depleted Uranium Detonation Sand Pit

Lawrence Livermore Natl Lab Site 300 EWTF Permit Final 1997
Lawrence Livermore Natl Lab -Site 300 Draft Permit 15 March 2016 (CA)
Los Alamos Final (P100R2) Title V permit 2015 (NM)
Los Alamos DU disposal by open detonation China Lake ref (NM)
Los Alamos Natl Lab Haz Waste Permit Attachment J – HW Units July 2016 (NM)
Los Alamos Natl Lab Part B Permit Renewal Application (NM)
Los Alamos Notice of Disapproval 2012 (NM)
Nevada National Security Site RCRA Part B Application EOD Unit 2015
Nevada National Security Site RCRA Permit 2015 (NV)
Pantex ASER final 2013 Report (TX)
Pantex 2008 Flexible Permit Compliance History Report (TX)
Pantex Special Conditions Flexible Air Permit 84802 2011 – US Dept. of Energy (TX)
Pantex Permit RCRA OB OD HW-50284 Issued May 30 2014 (TX)
Picatinny DU in Soils at OBG Groundwater Assessment Report 2003 (NJ)
West Valley Demo Project redacted interim status misc units non-OB OD 2010 (NY)


40 CFR 265.382 – Open burning; waste explosives
Army-Wide Consolidation of OB OD 1996
CEASE FIRE References for webpage 2015
Distribution and Fate of Explosive and Propellants in soil 2012 Pichtel
Military Hazardous Waste Sickens Land and People Truthout August 2011
NDAA Conference Report 2017 Munitions Demil Section
Potential Applicability of Chem Weapon Demil Technologies to Munitions EPA 2000
Presentation on Supercritical Water Oxidation 2016
Production of Dioxins and Furans from Open Burning Propellants 2011
Table Examples OB OD Annual Thresholds Aug 2016
Tables on Subsurface Contaminants at Army and Other Facilities
Upper Cape Cancer Incidence Study Massachusetts 1991
Vieques: U.S. Navy Bombing and Infant Health 2016


Holston Army Ammunition Plant Fact Sheet 9-26-12
Holston Army Ammunition Plant SWMU and Wells Production Area B Map 2008
Holston Army Ammunition Plant TDEQ Statement of Basis 2012

Holston Army Ammunition Plant FY 2014 Groundwater report (large file)
Holston Army Ammunition Plant SWMU Maps Part 1 (large file)
Holston Army Ammunition Plant SWMU Maps Part 2 (large file)
Holston Army Ammunition Plant Public Notice 9-26-12


Management of U.S. Legacy Underwater Military Munitions

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