Corps of Engineers issues warning to public

By Imran Vittachi
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 16, 2002
page B1

Fancy a stroll through northwestern Forest Park? Watch out for 85-year-old Army munitions that may still be live and lurking underfoot in that corner of the park where landscape crews are installing a new golf course.

The Army Corps of Engineers issued a public warning Monday that active artillery shells may be scattered about after a World War I era artillery shell was discovered there last week, the third unearthed in two months by landscape workers.

A smoke-bomb that was turned up by a bulldozer on July 8 on the northwest side of the Grand Lagoon was filled with dirt and would not have caused any injury, said Josephine Newton-Lund, an environmental protection specialist with the corps.

But one of two mortar shells discovered in lower flats of the golf course since May 15 was a live round. It had to be removed and destroyed by the city police bomb squad because it contained white phosphate, she said. A fourth mortar shell was unearthed at the site in December. It also was live and had to be disposed of by demolition workers.

The separate discoveries raised enough concern about the potential danger to people that the corps decided to alert the public, Newton-Lund said.

She stressed that there is no danger that the shells could explode. If white phosphate remains in the shells, however, it can cause severe burns to exposed skin, she said.

The shells were used a4 smoke cover devices during" mock battles and training exercises staged around Art Hill during both world wars, the corps said. None contained any TNT, the agency said. If park visitors come across a shell, they should call police. The four shells were clustered within a 100-foot radius. Workers putting in the new golf course have been advised on how to recognize old munitions, Newton-Lund said.

Corps officials have tried using metal detectors to locate and remove more pieces of ordnance. But buried metal debris from buildings and structures that were erected during the 1904 World's Fair results in false detector readings.

"You can't distinguish the debris from the ordnance," Newton-Lund said.


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