Army Corps uses specialized equipment to reduce risk of munitions appearing on beaches [video]

    Imagine walking on a beach with newly replenished sand and stumbling upon a peculiar piece of rusted metal. 

    That’s what happened along a stretch of beach north of Monmouth County’s Asbury Park in May 2015 when dredging crews discovered something amiss. 

    Roughly 90 brass “boosters,” generally the size of a C battery and one of multiple components of a projectile fired from World War I era artillery, were found along an approximately 2,000 to 2,500 feet stretch of beach in the municipalities of Loch Arbour and Allenhurst.

    How’d they get there? Pumped from an offshore dredge. 

    “As with all other beach renourishment contracts, measures were in place to prevent MEC (Munitions and Explosives of Concern) to reduce the chance for these items to find their way to the beach,” US Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Chris Gardner said at the time. “The use of a new area within the permitted Sea Bright borrow area has evidenced a new type of MEC never before encountered during beachfill projects.”

    The boosters were not captured by the MEC baskets and were “inadvertently allowed onto the beach,” the spokesman added.

    The engineers use a screening device affixed on the dredge’s intake prior to reaching the pump and at the discharge end of the pipeline that’s laid along the beach. To onlookers, the device looks like a large basket.

    While pumping sand onto the beach, an Ordnance and Explosives Safety Specialist is on-site or in the vicinity due to the potential for munitions appearing. 

    State and federal personnel inspect the screening baskets for any MEC or similar items. If any are found, the Ordnance and Explosives Safety Specialist is responsible for determining the most appropriate method of disposal. 

    After the May 2015 incident, the Army Corps spokesman said the agency modified the baskets to capture the specific type of World War 1 boosters. Gardner said that while the boosters were not armed, they could have contained aged explosives.

    For that reason, the public is asked to follow the “3Rs” of explosives safety: “Recognize, Retreat, Report.”

    Recognize when you may have encountered a munition and that munitions are dangerous.
    Retreat – Do not approach, touch, move or disturb it, but move away from it
    Report what you saw and where you saw it to local authorities by calling 911 or alerting local officials (e.g., a lifeguard). Police officials have been asked to contact the USACE Environmental & Explosive Safety personnel working on the contract.

    The agency expects to kick-off beach replenishment in Ocean County’s northern barrier island this summer and Atlantic County’s Absecon Island this week. A project in Cape May County’s Stone Harbor is ongoing. 

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