The pandemic isn’t stopping things at the Tooele Army Depot where open detonations will be picking back up soon.
The detonations will resume on April 1 and will run through Oct. 31 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting, according to Depot officials.
“This is just a way we have to destroy or demilitarize munitions that the armed forces no longer use for whatever reason,” said Tooele Army Depot public affairs officer Jeremy Laird.
Open detonations specifically reduce the army depot’s unusable munition stocks, freeing up valuable conventional munitions storage space at an accelerated rate, and improve readiness for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, according to Laird.
These detonations have been going on for decades when the weather gets warm each year.
Previously, the depot let off their detonations in the north area of the depot.
Three years ago, they began letting them off at the south area, because it was safer, according to Laird.
“We were letting them off on the part of the depot that is three miles south of Tooele,” he said. “Beginning in 2019, so this is our third season, we moved to the south area. In 2012, we regained control of the south area and we went through the permitting to do the detonations down there, because it is much more isolated. This area was originally part of the depot and we got it back or regained control of that area.”
The south area is located in Rush Valley and consists of 19,364 acres of land, according to Laird.
The area is about 17 miles south of Tooele and 17 miles west of Eagle Mountain.
The open detonation area is located on the southeast corner of the south area.
Even though the detonations are being put off in the south area which is further than the north area, Tooele area residents may still be able to hear the detonations exploding.
For the near future, each year from April to October, the depot will set off detonations.
“For the foreseeable future this is how we will demilitarize munitions,” said Laird. “We are always looking for ways to make this process more effective, such as new technologies. If we find a new technology that allows us to do it a different way, that could be a possibility but that is definitely down the road.”
Tooele Army Depot employees who put off the detonations observe strict open detonation procedures that have resulted in an “excellent” safety record being earned.
All of the employees at the depot, including the employees who set off the detonations, are also strictly following COVID-19 procedures.
“The depot is taking all of the precautions recommended by the CDC to keep the workforce safe,” said Laird. “That has been kind of an ever-changing process as we learn more about the disease. When we do these open detonations, the workforce is cognizant of COVID-19 and all those protocols. We wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash our hands. We have also provided the opportunity for the workforce to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. We have also had to readjust, but it hasn’t affected much.”