More than 9,000 sites were identified, according to Addison D. 'Tad' Davis, the Army's deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health. He said that at least 2,700 sites around the country have been identified as needing a cleanup, including the 1,544 sites known to have explosives.
Davis said that locating the unexploded munitions can be "a little bit like'' a scavenger hunt at times.
"Let's put it this way,'' he said. "Records are not good, maps are not good, and a lot of dirt has moved from these properties."
Another problem the military faces is detecting chemical contamination. Sites that were tested and rendered safe 20 years ago are being revisited, in light of more advanced scientific information.
"We had a number of properties that were old Nike missile storage sites. These were places where — during the Cold War — you [could] launch a missile from,'' Davis told ABC News. "When we first looked at those sites and tested for contamination, we did not find anything. In the past 10 to 15 years, TCE was found to be a carcinogen, so TCE is now very much a priority,'' he said.
"Our priorities change because, in the environmental world, there's something called emerging contaminants, and you never know from one year to the next what the scientists will tell us is harmful,'' Davis said.
Tatum wishes the military had been better at planning ahead. Virtually every weekend since the summer of 2007, his neighborhood has been rattled by the sound of exploding ordnances.
"When they detonated the first one, it rattled our windows, and it was a half mile away. That's when it really hit us,'' he said.
The detonations have continued, on weekends and after school hours, through last week, he said, adding that his young son has to be evacuated from his day care center every time an ordnance is detonated within 1,000 feet of the center.
Tatum has not had to renew his homeowner's insurance since learning his subdivision was sitting on the former military training site, but he's unlikely to be successful.
Even Citizens Property Insurance Corporation — a state-run insurance-of-last-resort company, created by the Florida state legislature in 2002, in part, for homeowners in risky, coastal hurricane zones — has made it clear they will not insure the homes in Tatum's subdivision.
"The short answer is 'no,' Rocky Scott, a spokesman for the company, told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this month. "If we know there are unexploded bombs there, we would not issue a policy."
So, Tatum hired an attorney, John R. Overchuck, to sue the developer and try and recover some of the money he expects to lose.
Casualty of War — Henry Owens' Hand
Stories of previously buried caches, of sometimes live munitions, pop-up sporadically in newspapers across the nation.
In 2005, after Hurricane Isabel tore up the Eastern seaboard, a contractor, hired to fix drainage problems at the golf course at Langley Air Force Base, uncovered a bomb. The military quickly — and quietly — unearthed 140 practice bombs, and 1,500 pieces of bombs, according to the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.
Seven live landmines and 56 others were discovered near Wilson Central High School in Tennessee in 2002, the Tennessean newspaper reported. The mines were recovered and no one was injured.
But, in 2001, an 8-year-old boy's hand was blown off by a 37mm shell he discovered at what was once the Spencer Artillery Range in White County, Tenn.