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Posted 5/5/2014

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By Amanda Ellison

One week before hundreds of spring break tourists were due to arrive at Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico, a snorkeler located a large munitions item during an afternoon swim in Flamenco Bay.

Following protocol, the municipality of Culebra notified the Police Bureau of Explosives and Public Security, who in turn contacted the U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. The EOD team inspected and identified the item as an unexploded 100-pound bomb, then safely destroyed it with a controlled detonation in the water.  

The Army Corps of Engineers has an active safety campaign on the island of Culebra, to inform both the local citizens and visitors on the correct response in the event they encounter potential munitions. The safety awareness message could not have come at a more critical time, as tourists began to arrive on the island for spring break.

Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers were on the island the day the snorkeler discovered the item, to distribute safety and educational materials about the importance of practicing the 3Rs of explosives safety: 

·         Recognize that the object might be a munitions item and that munitions may be dangerous;

·         Retreat to a safe location without moving or touching the item; and

·         Report the finding immediately to local police.

The Department of Defense used the island of Culebra and adjacent smaller islands 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 Formerly Used Defense Sites, and has divided eligible portions of 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. Additionally the Corps is conducting field investigations in the water areas around the Northwest Peninsula, Soldado Point, Cayo Luis Peña, Culebrita and various adjacent small cayos.

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