Governor Mitt Romney announced yesterday that the use of so-called environmentally safe bullets in military training exercises at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod has been suspended after traces of metal were found in the groundwater.
Seven years ago, military officials began using the new, ''safe bullets" because they thought they wouldn't contaminate an aquifer beneath the base that supplies upper Cape Cod with drinking water. The bullets were made of nylon and tungsten, a metal that supposedly didn't dissolve into the ground like lead.
But Romney said yesterday that preliminary data from field tests at the base indicate tungsten has leeched into the soil there. He said there is no particular reason for concern, and emphasized that there was no evidence tungsten is in the public drinking water.
''I have no problem going to the Cape tomorrow and having a tall glass of water," Romney said at a Statehouse news conference. Romney said he's ordered tests to make sure the tungsten hasn't reached the public drinking water, and said the National Guard, federal and state regulators, and local community leaders would work together to further monitor and study tungsten.
Brigadier General Oliver J. Mason, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, said the tungsten-nylon bullets would be temporarily replaced with plastic ones where appropriate. Camp Edwards is part of the Massachusetts Military Reservation, which covers 30 square miles and includes four towns on upper Cape Cod: Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, and Mashpee. It has been a major training center for troops for decades, up to the current war in Iraq.
In 1997, the US Environmental Protection Agency called a ceasefire at Camp Edwards and ordered a cleanup of lead buried in and around the berms at base shooting ranges. Lead was found 19 feet underground moving toward the aquifer, though it never reached it.