WWII-era bomb debris found on beach off coast of Maryland, Virginia

Several pieces of military munitions debris washed ashore on a barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia, prompting officials on Sunday to close off part of the swimming area until further notice.

At least seven pieces of debris have been found over the past two weeks along the North Beach swimming area on the Maryland side of the Assateague Island National Seashore. Most of the pieces are just metal fragments but could contain residue of explosives or propellant, prompting the National Park Service (NPS) to initiate a partial beach closure, officials said.

The Navy used that area of Assateague Island as a test range for rockets and bombs during World War II. In the 1950s, the government conducted a clean-up effort which consisted of burying the debris in pits on the island.

Due to what National Park Service officials said was the “natural movement of the island” and the rise in sea levels, some of those pits are now offshore. It is likely that a large storm in May disturbed the nearshore seafloor and uncovered one of the pits, the NPS said in a statement. 

Local park officials are working with law enforcement and military bomb squads to deal with the potentially dangerous debris. Several visitors have picked up rocket fragments and brought the items to lifeguard stations or the park’s visitor center. 

“If you find a piece of unidentified metal on the beach, please do not touch it and notify park staff,” National Park Service officials said. 

Park officials say they are developing a plan going forward but said it isn’t known how long the partial beach closure will last.

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