WWII MUNITIONS PROVIDED BLAST AT POPULAR BEACH: Newtown Neck State Park beachcombers found more than seashells

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WWII MUNITIONS PROVIDED BLAST AT POPULAR BEACH: Newtown Neck State Park beachcombers found more than seashells

The Newtown Neck State Park Master Plan Explains the Discovery of WWII Munitions on Beaches at the Park and Closure of the Park for Two Years to Search for Other Ordnance

In January 2012, multiple projectiles were found near the shoreline by park staff. Military EOD responded and detonated the projectiles, which was followed by a more comprehensive search of the area by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). During this sweep, an additional 24 projectiles were found and detonated.

In January 2012, multiple projectiles were found near the shoreline by park staff. Military EOD responded and detonated the projectiles, which was followed by a more comprehensive search of the area by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). During this sweep, an additional 24 projectiles were found and detonated.

After this discovery, the USACE provided safety handouts and additional guidance to the Department of Natural Resources. The safety information outlined a “3Rs Protocol” of Recognize, Retreat, and Report. Ultimately the decision was made to close the park to the public until further investigation and analysis could be completed.

 The USACE served as the lead agency to initiate a Formerly Used Defense Site Eligibility review to gain an understanding of the nature of the materials found on the property, assess the risk associated with future discoveries, and determine an appropriate course of action relative to federal responsibility for further investigation and clean –up of the property.

Through 2012 and 2013, the USACE conducted extensive research and determined that the Newtown Neck State Park property was used by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab to conduct testing of electronic fuse parts from 1942 to 1945.

 In 1946, the Navy Bureau of Operations took over the fuse testing on the property. During this period, the scope of the testing involved four firing fields. A variety of buildings, structures, roads, and utilities were installed to accommodate the testing and the staff involved with the project. Recovery of the munitions for further analysis in a laboratory was critical to the research, and 95% were recovered.

In early 2014, the USACE provided a pre-report final assessment to DNR Leadership that the research indicated that any munitions debris found on the site associated with the former testing activity was inert. In April 2014, the park reopened with the “3Rs Protocol” in place, and an operations plan identified the Maryland State Fire Marshal as the lead agency and primary point-of-contact when munitions are discovered.

In May 2014, the USACE released a final report based on historical research and the site visit.

The report concluded that there is evidence of only inert munitions debris remaining on land and in the surrounding waters that is related to military activities at the property. The report specified that both JHU and Navy operations were limited to testing fuse components, and no high explosives were used in the tests. Black powder was used to create a puff of smoke, but the powder was not contained in the shell. The report stated that the fuses themselves are not a concern because of the shelf life of the batteries.

The report concluded that while munitions debris has been found on the property, there is no reason to believe that any Munitions of Explosives of Concern (MEC) or that a Munitions Constituents (MC) hazard exists.

There have been some additional munitions discoveries since the park reopened; however, in each case, the 3Rs Protocol was implemented, the Fire Marshall’s Office notified, and the material safely detonated.

Coast Guard Fast Response Vessel from Station St. Inigoes conducting boating safety checks on the Potomac River, Newtown Neck State Park is in the background. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY LLC.

All park staff is trained on the proper procedures to follow if munitions are found, and information is posted and available at all park bulletin boards advising visitors about the possible presence of munitions, and the steps to follow in notifying authorities.

Newtown Neck State Park has access to nearly all of the lower Potomac River for kayakers.

Park staff periodically conducts planned “debris sweeps” of the Lacey Beach and other areas were munitions have been found, and additional sweeps are conducted after major storm events. These sweeps are sometimes conducted in coordination with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and have been coordinated with some diver training. The sweeps will continue to be a part of standard park operations periodically throughout the year

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