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Big booms to begin on Utah's west desert

Posted at 7:23 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 09:23:34-04

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — The Air Force will begin its season of large detonation operations today – those involving more than 10,000 pounds of net explosive weight – at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). These detonations are expected to continue through Sept. 14.

The detonations will occur on Mondays and Tuesdays, with Wednesday as a backup day each week. The detonations are to destroy rocket motors and solid propellant of retired and expired ballistic missiles.

“Detonation is the best environmental method for disposing of these large rocket motors and propellant,” said Michelle Cottle, the Environmental Branch Chief for the 75th Civil Engineer Group. Since 2012, more than 300 rocket motors have been destroyed at the UTTR, the only permitted place in the United States where this type of work can be done.

Before each large detonation at the UTTR, the Air Force takes atmospheric readings to check wind speed, direction and other factors, and enters the data into a sound prediction model to determine if conditions are acceptable for the detonation. If the model predicts that noise is going to be louder than permitted levels at locations along the Wasatch Front, the detonations are delayed.

“We do everything possible to do this work without adversely affecting our neighbors and the environment,” Cottle said. This includes setting up sound monitors along the Wasatch Front.

“We are always learning and with technology improvements, we continue to update and upgrade our sound monitoring” she said. “This is still the safest and most efficient way of disposing of these motors.”