ASSATEAGUE — A second planned detonation of World War II era military style unexploded ordnance found on the beach at Assateague Island on Monday afternoon is expected Tuesday evening after the first batch was detonated around mid-day.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">
Assateague Island National Seashore officials late Tuesday afternoon confirmed a second batch of unexploded decades-old military ordnance discovered on the beach on Monday afternoon would be detonated this evening, likely between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. On Monday afternoon, visitors to Assateague Island National Seashore reported finding what appeared to be decades-old ordnance on the beach to park officials.
Assateague Island National Seashore officials contacted the Army’s Emergency Ordnance Disposal Unit from the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Md. to investigate the World War II-era ordnance and plan for its removal or disposal. On Tuesday afternoon, the EOD Unit from Aberdeen successfully detonated a large amount of the ordnance discovered buried on the beach on Monday afternoon.
However, much of the discovered ordnance remained and a second planned detonation was set for Tuesday evening roughly between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Assateague Island National Seashore officials late Tuesday afternoon confirmed a vast portion of the north beach on the Maryland side of the national seashore remains closed although the Oversand Vehicle Area and much of the camping areas away from the north beach where the ordnance was discovered remains open.
AINS spokesperson Liz Davis late Tuesday said the pieces of ordnance discovered on Monday were not active or dangerous, but the National Park Service has specific protocols to follow with the discovery of unexploded ordnance or munitions of any kind.
“The things that were uncovered and found are inert, meaning they are not active and not dangerous, but we have to follow the protocols,” she said. “Everything is being handled and treated as if it were live ammunition and ordnance.”
Davis said after consulting with the EOD unit from Aberdeen, the decision was made to detonate the unexploded ordnance right on the beach in the area where it was found. Much of it was detonated during the first planned explosion around mid-day on Tuesday. However, the second planned detonation was set for Tuesday evening.
After consulting with the EOD unit from Aberdeen, a decision has been made to bring in the Army Corps of Engineers to take over the investigation and assist with the disposal. However, Davis said late Tuesday the Army Corps of Engineers had not yet arrived at Assateague.
Davis said the decades-old ordnance was likely deposited in and around Assateague during the World War II era and was just recently uncovered by tides, winds or other natural phenomena. She said it was unlikely the material washed ashore. Instead it was likely uncovered during the natural shifting and migrating of the barrier island.
“We’ve found other stuff over the years and it has always been inactive, or inert,” she said. “It happens from time to time, but certainly not often. The area off Assateague was used as a target range and test range during World War II and some of this stuff is still around. It could have been miles off the coast at different times over the years because the island naturally migrates and the shoreline is ever-changing.”
More details will be provided as they become available. For a full story, see Friday’s print and online editions of The Dispatch.