Unearthing weapons of past destruction
March 07 2007 | Coastal Preservation,
by Chad Nelsen
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 03/7/07
BY ZACH PATBERG
SURF CITY — The five World War II-era bomb devices found scattered on Surf City's new beachfill have caused some unease about what else could be pumped from the ocean bed during the beach replenishment project here.
John Weber of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group, said Tuesday he raised concerns to Long Beach Island town officials more than a year ago over dredging up old chemical weapons from the sea, citing newspaper accounts of such material being dumped off the coasts of at least 11 states, including New Jersey, at the end of World War II.
"I see these articles about (the military) having no idea where this stuff is now," said Weber, who has been a vocal critic of the beachfill project. "And we go dredging around off our shore. God forbid we dredge these things up and onto our beach."
The Army Corps of Engineers has conducted ocean floor surveys and historical research to try to ensure that no explosive waste from past military activity is within the dredge area of the replenishment project, which was recently finished in Surf City and could continue on beaches on most of the island.
The five fuses and fuse adapters found last week, however, could have escaped the survey's radar.
"There is limited potential to find unexploded ordnance in the offshore borrow areas (where sand is taken to replenish beaches) along the coast of LBI, due to World War I and World War II Naval activities," a portion the corps' feasibility study reads.
The corps' project manager, Keith Watson, said the area where the ordnance were found — between 17th and 24th streets — has been closed temporarily and the corps will contract Army munitions specialists to sweep the shore of the entire borough, "just to be safe."
Watson said all that remains to do in Surf City is install dune crossovers and a handicap entrance, and that work could commence within weeks.
The first fuse was found Friday by a person combing the beach with a metal detector. Over the next couple of days, another resident and beachfill workers found the other four. The mix of fuses and adapters to attach the fuses have been disposed of by a bomb squad from Fort Monmouth. Three of the devices contained explosives, said Timothy Rider, a Fort Monmouth spokesman.
The cylindrical adaptors and the nine-inch long fuses, which are shaped like a miniature train whistle, resembled those manufactured in the United States and used during World War II, Rider said.
Historians say military activity off the island was prevalent during the war. So it was not surprising to John Dorrity, director of the Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau, that fuses had surfaced in Surf City — but worrisome nonetheless.
"It's scary when it comes up on a dredging project because you got civilians finding them," he said. "It presents a unique problem. Old ordnance can be very unstable."
Surf City Mayor Leonard T. Connors Jr. viewed the discoveries as typical, however.
"I've seen whales on the beach . . . and destroyers on the beach. You name it, I've seen it," Connors said. "This is not a cataclysmic event that happens once in a lifetime."
Zach Patberg: (609) 978-4582 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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