When we drove home from taking one of our dogs to the companion animal medical clinic at Cornell University (another story), we passed what was once the largest military storage facility for weapons. This Seneca Army Depot is mostly deserted except for some small parcels that have been sold off.
Comprising a massive 10, 587 acres, the depot straddles the land between the two largest Finger Lakes – Cayuga and Seneca – which are the homes to the many wineries the region has become famous for.
Fascinated by abandoned places and the ghosts that inhabit them, this army depot is especially mesmerizing because of the role it played and the things it held in the time frame between 1941 and 2000.
Although some of the land has been sold off, more remains under lock and key, evidently still guarding whatever secrets remain buried there.
Populating the off-limits area are 500 “igloos,” the mostly underground storage huts that held ammunition, including the largest inventory of nuclear weaponry in the country. These huts were built to withstand the most unimaginable explosive forces.
Another feature is its airstrip, which is still in good working order and can handle huge aircraft. After scouring the Internet and several academic databases, information on this airstrip was scanty, at best.
Since the depot handled nuclear weapons, it also needed to dispose of radioactive materials. It developed burial pits for the radioactive waste as well as a 5,000-gallon tank that contained the wastewater from the clothes washed that had been worn by the workers in the nuclear areas. In 1987, the pits were dug up and the radioactive materials were transported to an approved waste site.
In the 1950s and 60s, metal components dubbed as classified were buried in the Miscellaneous Components Burial Site, and because they were classified, what these really had never been revealed. The materials have since been dug up and disposed of elsewhere, but the question remains – what were they?
An Incinerator Building, used from 1974 – 1979, was used to burn garbage and rubbish, and from there, it went into a cooling pond, from which waste ash was removed and deposited into the Ash Landfill. Nothing was used to cover this waste. Approximately 18 tons of refuse were incinerated weekly.
In 1990, the EPA placed the depot on its superfund program of the National Priorities List for a long-term cleanup project.
Finally, there is the herd of white deer that resides exclusively in the depot. It is the largest such herd anywhere.
So, why my fascination?
Where to begin…
- Why is there a well-kept, ready-to-use airstrip that can handle the largest of aircraft?
- Could there be more underground facilities in the restricted area?
- What caused the deer to be white?
- Was the depot a major target in WWII?
- What were the classified metal materials made of?
- Do any missiles remain somewhere, buried on the site?
It seems I have just begun my research to find answers to these and other, questions about this abandoned site in the Finger Lakes.