Practice bomb beach cleanup resumes
Work began Tuesday under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find and remove practice munitions dropped at former military target areas off South Beach in Katama and Cape Poge on Chappaquiddick. Portions of the beaches are owned or managed by The Trustees of Reservations, Edgartown, and Dukes County.
The Army Corps of Engineers said it is working with the local agencies "to make beach areas on Martha's Vineyard safer for the public to enjoy this summer." The work is expected to continue until May 31 and cost about $800,000, according to a press release.
In recent years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun cleaning up what are termed Formerly Used Defense Sites, properties that the Department of Defense once owned or used, but no longer controls. Martha's Vineyard is on that list.
During World War II, Martha's Vineyard Airport was a Naval Air Station. Flight units including squadrons of Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers took to the skies over and around Martha's Vineyard to train before combat in the Pacific.
The areas to be searched include South Beach 100 feet out from the shoreline into the water, and the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge in the shallow water along the shoreline,
the shore and the dunes from Simons Point to 1,000 feet north of Shear Pin Pond, including the mudflats and pond areas of Drunkards Cove and Shear Pin Pond.
The Corps previously conducted a removal action in 1989 and 1990 at South Beach removing munitions from the beach and dune areas. According to the press release, "The dynamic nature of the beach with ocean currents and tides has caused more practice munitions rounds (expended rocket motor bodies ranging in size from 2.5 inches to 5 inches), to appear in shoreline waters at the ocean bottom."
Over the years, rusted practice bombs have continued to turn up in the marsh and on the beach, most often on areas owned or managed by The Trustees, the private conservation organization. Most of the ordnance are practice bombs that have only a small explosive charge, but a few of the discoveries have turned out to be the real thing.
The South Beach initial work area was expanded to include Norton Point and Wasque Point at the southeast corner of Martha's Vineyard as a result of the discovery of two 100-pound bombs at Wasque Point - one in March 2008, the second in February 2009 - that were suspected to be filled with high explosives.
Explosives ordnance disposal (EOD) experts blew up the rusted aerial bomb that was discovered this year. The loud explosion reverberated across Chappaquiddick and was a reminder that even a rusted bomb can still be lethal.