Maryland's Assateague Island National Seashore beach closed after unexploded military ordnance found

Debris uncovered at former U.S. Navy test range, National Park Service says

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A beach along Maryland’s Assateague Island National Seashore has been temporarily shuttered by the National Park Service as a growing number of unexploded military ordnance is being discovered at the former U.S. Navy testing site. 

Part of the North Beach Swimming area – which normally is patrolled by lifeguards – was closed until further notice starting Sunday "because of the discovery of multiple (7 and counting), pieces of military munitions debris on the beach over the last two weeks," according to the National Park Service (NPS). 

"During the 1940s, the U.S. Navy used this area of Assateague Island as a test range for rockets and bombs. In the 1950s a cleanup was done, and munitions debris was buried in pits on the island," it added. 

Park officials say "due to the natural movement of the island and seas level rise, some of these pits are now offshore," but "it is likely that the large Nor’easter in May disturbed the nearshore seafloor and uncovered one of these pits." 

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The part of the North Beach Swimming area in the Assateague Island National Seashore that is now closed to the public, according to the National Park Service.

The part of the North Beach Swimming area in the Assateague Island National Seashore that is now closed to the public, according to the National Park Service. (National Park Service)

"This has resulted in pieces of ordnance coming ashore," the NPS said, adding that "most of these pieces are just metal fragments, but some may still contain residue of either explosives or propellant [sic] and thus must be considered dangerous." 

The Ocean City Bomb Squad and Dover Air Force Base’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal team are now working to clean up the site. 

Waves are seen crashing to shore at the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland.

Waves are seen crashing to shore at the Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. (Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images)

In the meantime, park officials are urging guests to take caution if they find unidentified scrap metal along the shoreline. 

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A naturally formed sand dune, foreground, in the north island area of Assateague Island National Seashore on Maryland's Assateague Island in 2014.

A naturally formed sand dune, foreground, in the north island area of Assateague Island National Seashore on Maryland's Assateague Island in 2014. (J.M. Eddins Jr. for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

"Unfortunately, there have been several instances of visitors picking up rocket fragments and carrying them to either the lifeguards or, in one instance the visitor center. Please do not do this as it is potentially very dangerous," the NPS said. 

It is not immediately clear when the area will reopen.