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Originally published May 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 15, 2007 at 7:31 PM

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Beach bombs: World War I munitions force closure of popular Jersey shore

The Army Corps of Engineers has removed World War I-era military munitions discovered on two Jersey Shore beaches, and officials expect...

The Associated Press

SURF CITY, N.J. — The Army Corps of Engineers has removed World War I-era military munitions discovered on two Jersey Shore beaches, and officials expect the sand and surf will be ready for Memorial Day crowds.

The material was dumped at sea by the military decades ago, where it sat until it was sucked off the ocean floor and shot through a dredge pipe up onto the sand as part of a beach replenishment project over the winter on Long Beach Island.

Keith Watson, project manager for the operation to sweep Surf City and Ship Bottom clean of discarded munitions, said Monday that work crews have recovered 1,080 pieces of material, including fuses and other military hardware.

The miles of beaches that have been closed could be ready for the public as early as the end of this week or the beginning of next week, Watson said.

The discovery has roiled Long Beach Island, one of New Jersey's top summer vacation destinations, where anything that scares away tourists is dreaded.

Merchants have sought to capitalize on the unwanted publicity by selling T-shirts with slogans including "Our Beaches Will Blow You Away" and "I Got Bombed On Long Beach Island."

In some spots, munitions were found as deep as 8 or 9 feet, said Ed Voigt, a spokesman for the Army Corps. The munitions have been picked up and removed by an Army explosives disposal unit based at Fort Monmouth.

As an added precaution, the Corps will ask local governments to prohibit beachgoers from digging deeper than 12 inches on the beach, and to ban the use of metal detectors this summer in those two communities.

"They (the munitions) do have explosives in them," Watson said. "If you apply the right kind of conditions to them, they could go off. It only takes one, and we don't want that."

Many communities on Long Beach Island already have laws prohibiting anyone from digging deeper than a foot below the sand, but not because of any weapons fears.

The laws followed a 2001 accident in Loveladies in which a 16-year-old boy died when sand from a deep hole he was digging collapsed on him.

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