ARCHIVED - DND Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXO) and Legacy Sites Program

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Backgrounder / May 25, 2007 / Project number: BG–07.009


Over the years, many locations across Canada have been used for military operations, training and weapons testing. Wartime action along Canada's coasts and incidents involving ships, planes or vehicles carrying ammunition and explosives have also created “legacy sites” at which unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO) may still remain today.

Legacy sites are those no longer in the Department's inventory, which were transferred or disposed of in a manner consistent with environmental and other laws and regulations of the day. These lands are not limited to former bases and stations, but also include ranges and training areas, which may have been used as air weapons ranges and naval weapons ranges, or sites used by troops from foreign allied nations. They were not necessarily owned, but may have been leased by DND, or acquired by another department for DND/CF purposes.

Most ordnance that was fired exploded immediately and poses no danger to the public. However, a small percentage of munitions typically do not explode on impact and, therefore, may pose an on-going risk.

DND UXO and Legacy Sites Program

The DND UXO and Legacy Sites Program, created in 2005, works to reduce safety risks posed by unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO) at all "legacy sites" across Canada. A legacy site is any property not owned by DND that contains UXO.

DND's principal priority in creating the UXO and Legacy Sites Program is protecting the public. UXO creates varying levels of safety risk depending on the quantity, condition and type of UXO, local demographics, site characteristics, and the attractiveness of the property to the public.

DND UXO and Legacy Sites Program activities include:

  • The ongoing development of a UXO legacy sites database;
  • Development and implementation of a process to assess the level of risk at each legacy site;
  • The programmed and prioritized reduction of UXO risk at legacy sites through education, property controls, UXO assessment surveys, and UXO clearance operations; and
  • The development and implementation of a Canada-wide UXO risk awareness communications and education strategy.

For the next several years mitigation measures will be implemented at priority sites, accompanied by education and communication activities. Thereafter, ongoing review and reassessment of sites, implementation of mitigation measures, and communication and education activities will continue.

It is important to understand that the limitations of existing UXO detection technologies mean that no UXO legacy site can ever be declared completely hazard-free. Caution is always required when entering a UXO legacy site.

Determining Risk

To aid in the crucially important work of establishing the explosive safety risk at each legacy site, an Explosive Risk Rating Sub-Committee has been formed. The Sub-Committee is made up of individuals with the UXO technical knowledge and experience with military munitions-use required to make highly informed decisions.

The level of risk is determined by assessing the probability of human interaction with the UXO, combined with the probability that such interaction will result in the detonation of the explosive. Risk varies considerably from site to site depending upon the interplay of these two probabilities. Sites where it is determined that there is little risk of users encountering UXO will be considered as low priority for action, allowing attention to be directed towards sites where risk is greater.

The program carries out two types of risk assessment:

Programmatic prioritization risk assessment is the initial screening process used to designate UXO sites as a High, Medium or Low Risk, based upon the combination of human interaction and explosive probabilities. High Risk sites are the first to be programmed for risk mitigation action.

Site-specific risk assessment determines the level of clearance and the clearance methodology required to reduce UXO risk to a level that will allow pre-designated property use to take place following clearance.

Identifying Legacy Sites

Several hundred UXO legacy sites are known to exist at locations spread across Canada's land mass. In addition, research has identified a total of 620 potential and known offshore UXO sites in the Atlantic Ocean and 88 in the Pacific for a total of 708 sites. The great majority of these sites pose little if any risk to the public.

A comprehensive program of historical research currently underway may identify additional sites. As information on each site becomes available, it will become part of a publicly accessible database on the Program’s Website ( ).

This research consists of:

  • Research of property records that detail DND ownership, lease or usage of the property. If such records exist, researchers try to determine if any UXO might have been left on the site.
  • Historical research to identify property uses that may not have been captured in property records. This type of research determines if there is evidence of a military accident, incident or other activity that could have resulted in UXO on the property.

For More Information

For more information on the UXO and Legacy Sites Program, or for briefing materials on specific sites, please contact:

DND UXO and Legacy Sites Program

Tel: 1-800-207-0599

Media inquiries should be directed to:

DND Public Affairs Headquarters
National Defence Headquarters
MGen George R. Pearkes Bldg, 15 NT
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0K2

Tel: (613) 996-2353
Tel: (613) 996-2354
Fax (613) 996-8330
Urgent requests after hours:
Pager: (613) 792-2973

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