JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is asking spring break visitors to Culebra and the surrounding area to exercise caution during their stay and be on the lookout for any items that could be potential munitions.
The likelihood of encountering munitions on Culebra, and particularly on the North West Peninsula, is relatively high and the Corps has always warned community members and visitors alike to learn and follow the 3Rs of explosives safety: Recognize when you may have encountered a munitions item, and that munitions are dangerous; Retreat – do not touch, move or disturb it, but carefully leave the area following the same path on which you entered it; Report what you encountered and its location by notifying local law enforcement immediately at 787-742-3501. This information has been distributed widely on the island and is posted at a kiosk on Flamenco Beach, a popular destination.
“Safety is the Corps’ top priority,” said Tom Freeman, project manager. “Even if old or in the water for long periods of time, munitions are dangerous – they should never be collected as souvenirs. The best way to keep yourself, your family and your community safe is to follow the 3Rs.”
The Department of Defense used the island of Culebra and adjacent islands and cays to train troops for combat and, although the Department of Defense ceased activities in the mid-1970s, military munitions remain on the islands and surrounding waters. The Corps is managing the cleanup of Culebra under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program for FUDS, and has divided Culebra into 14 project areas. One area is where anecdotal reports indicate materials from an encampment were placed in the wetland. The remaining 13 areas are known as Munitions Response Sites (MRSs).
Of the 13 MRSs, the Corps has initiated fieldwork on all land-based areas and Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study reports are in development. These reports will form the basis for plans to address each MRS. In-depth field investigations are currently underway at two water-based MRSs, which include Soldado Point and Cayo Luis Pena. The initial phases of investigation have also been completed for the water areas adjacent to the NWP and around Culebrita and the various small cayos.
The U.S. Congress prohibited the Department of Defense from using federal funds to clean up Culebra’s Northwest Peninsula (NWP). The Department of Defense used the entire NWP for naval shore and aerial bombardment. The 1982 deed transferring a portion of the NWP to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico transferred this portion in its existing condition and placed responsibility for any cleanup required, including the removal of unexploded ordnance, with the Commonwealth. In 2012, the Corps, in response to a congressional request, prepared and submitted a report on the NWP. This report provided an estimate of the types and amount of unexploded ordnance within the NWP and an estimate for its cleanup. To date, Congress has not indicated its intent with regard to the NWP.
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Note to Editors and News Directors: A series of one-minute public service announcement videos about the 3Rs of explosives safety is available in both English and Spanish. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requests your help in sharing this potentially life-saving message. Please contact us at the above email or phone number for further information.