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EDET's booming business.

Think your business is tough? A Valley environmental company, started to dispose of unexploded ordnance, just hopes its business plan doesn't blow up in its face.

Environmental questions can be controversial, but for one Alaska company, disposal is literally an explosive issue. Initially part of America's "arsenal of democracy," unexploded ordnance (UXO) left behind by military forces poses a threat to Alaskans and visitors as they work or explore the outdoors.

To the birdwatcher, hunter or Boy Scout, the rusty piles may appear to be harmless mounds of scrap metal. But photos taken in the Aleutian Chain, for example, reveal masses of live rocket fuses, piled projectiles, incendiary bombs and bomb fuses. Alaska's World War II legacy of memories include dusty paperwork, faded photographs and discarded, unexploded ordnance.

In Alaska, Explosive Disposal Engineering and Technology Ltd. (EDET), is the only company qualified to deal with ordnance and explosive waste. The Wasilla-based company was established in 1994 by Carl Seutter to dispose of explosives - a business that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill reverently described as "a grim and deadly game."

Along much of Alaska's coast are the historic sites of military activity at Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Umnak, Attu and Adak Islands. The majority of explosive ordnance can be found at military installations, abandoned camps, target areas and practice ranges. A minimal amount of explosive waste is the result of mining, oil industry and construction projects.

The James Bond Thing

Seutter's title is director of technical operations for EDET. This is not a paper title. As a senior UXO supervisor, he is a master explosive ordnance disposal specialist, with over 20 years of professional experience in locating, identifying, rendering safe and disposing of conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear fission/fusion devices.

Seutter served the Department of the Army for 20 years, including a stint in Vietnam. He assisted the Secret Service in the 1970s, providing a safe environment for the president and vice president. Seutter was a bomb disposal instructor and senior officer for the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal School's Advanced Access and Disablement Division. Seutter says laughingly, "We did the James Bond, Star Wars thing - which was pretty high-caliber technology, undercover stuff."

It is no accident that these hazards are considered environmentally unsafe. Forgotten munitions have the capacity to kill even qualified experts. Indeed, it was in Alaska that the United States Explosive Ordnance Disposal Service suffered its first casualty, a technician killed on Attu Island while disarming a Japanese bomb.

Disarming bombs requires highly specialized and advanced training. In the entire country, only 16 companies and a total of 300 technicians are qualified to conduct this hazardous work on a commercial basis. The Department of Defense, primary contractor for all cleanup activities, requires explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training and certification. All students must be schooled in the complex courseload of applied physics, chemistry, engineering, electronics and study of munitions. The highly specialized EOD courses are a demanding combo and considered tough training.

Fearful Experience?

Throughout his professional career, Seutter has responded to thousands of bomb incidents. Asked if disarming a bomb is a fearful experience, Seutter replies quietly, "We have to deal with the technical end, not the fear. Always, the preferred method is the safest method."

Seutter's company meets all the requirements and prerequisites of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA. Already this new company has performed ordnance and explosive waste operations throughout Alaska and the Lower 48.

EDET's full-time staff includes safety director/UXO supervisor Chuck Schaaf, staff geologist Tania Rankin, and UXO team leaders Sherry Butters and Alan Smith. Additional UXO personnel are drawn from a nationwide pool as the projects require. EDET has the safety and technical expertise to deal with explosive waste problems and ordnance located on the surface, subsurface or underwater. Initial site investigations include a surface search and geophysical testing. The location of subsurface ordnance requires state-of-the-art magnetic and electromagnetic detection instrumentation and equipment.

Remediation alternatives include ordnance avoidance and alerting the public to the danger, through appropriate signage and barricades. Safety supervision may also include a site escort, emergency explosive waste disposal, ordnance recognition, and associated investigations composed of reconnaissance briefs, maps and plans.

Safety First

Once the decision to remediate a site is made, the entire operational plan is engineered around safety - for both the site workers and the public. Any decision to "render it safe" always is based on the premise of being "duty bound to protect lives and property," says Seutter.

EDET offers monthly classes on ordnance and explosive waste engineering and bomb threat procedures. Ordnance and explosive waste/chemical warfare material HAZWOPER classes are also offered for full accreditation. Clients and students come from a variety of disciplines, including the oil and aviation industries, as well as public safety officials. Seutter says, "There is a demand for these classes, especially from those companies with overseas assets."

The national environmental cleanup program is tied to population density and other standards. Historically, Alaska hasn't been at the top of the list for cleanup activities. However, that is changing. Seutter says, "The federal government is just starting to spend money on the cleanup of the Last Frontier."
COPYRIGHT 1996 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Environment; Explosive Disposal Engineering and Technology Ltd.
Author:Hunt, Barbara
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Mar 1, 1996
Previous Article:Trucks, trains and transportation.
Next Article:Alcan Environmental Inc.

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