It’s nearly spring, so it’s time for the annual search for munitions on the beaches of Surf City

According to this article, the feds are again searching for munitions that may be under the sand in Surf City and Ship Bottom.

With World War I winding down, Navy ships patrolling the New Jersey coast found themselves with leftover ammunition and no targets for it. So they dumped it overboard, probably thinking the fuses and other ordnance would never be seen or heard from again. Nearly 90 years later, the fuses resurfaced, invading the shores of two of New Jersey’s most popular beaches, Surf City and Ship Bottom in Ocean County.

Now the federal government is in the third — and hopefully final — year of a cleanup that will cost nearly $17 million. So far, work crews have retrieved 1,213 pieces of munitions, mostly 6 to 8-inch-long fuses filled with gunpowder that could explode if jostled or struck. “We’re not too happy with the fact that this work has to be done,” said Pete Shearer, who owns an oceanfront house in Surf City where a huge backhoe was chewing up the beach and sand dunes about 5 feet from his back deck Tuesday morning. “But we’re pleased with the fact that the problem is being corrected.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unwittingly sucked the munitions from the sea bed and pumped them ashore as part of a massive beach replenishment project begun in late 2006 to keep the towns’ beaches nice and wide. In March 2007, beachgoers started spotting odd-shaped rusty metal items in the sand. Some took them home, and one even scraped rust off one of the items with a butter knife before thinking twice about continuing. The discoveries spurred jokes among locals and tourists about “getting bombed in Ship Bottom” and even created a cottage industry of T-shirts with slogans like, “I Had a Blast on Long Beach Island,” a narrow, 18-mile barrier island about 30 miles north of Atlantic City.

Keith Watson, project manager for the Army Corps, said the government checked thoroughly before starting the $71 million beach replenishment project and had no reason to believe that any munitions were in the area. In addition to researching military records, the Army Corps searched the area with metal detectors, and took sand samples in the area from which they intended to pump sand, a bed about 2 1/2 miles northeast of Surf City.

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