Raritan Arsenal update addresses bomb discovery, cleanup process


EDISON — A recently discovered World War II bomb sparked discussion at a meeting to review work at the Raritan Arsenal site.

Hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers on May 2 at the township’s senior center, the meeting was targeted at updating the public on the cleanup of the site.

The first topic that project manager Sandra Piettro covered was the AN-M43 practice bomb the project team found late last month as part of its remediation work. The AN-M43 was discovered on an area of the site that is owned by Middlesex County College.

Piettro stressed that the item did not contain explosives, but was exploded as part of a training exercise because these types of items are a rare find. She said the contractors working there had two options: to break it apart or blow it up.

“They actually blew it up,” she said.

Piettro said the Army Corps’ subsequent research has determined that the practice bomb was used as decoration at the arsenal and then had been disposed of via burial.

“I guess the standard practice at the time was to bury it,” she said.

Piettro said the item had been in the ground for about 50 years, and showed the audience what it would have looked like at that time. She also showed what the actual found ordnance, which was located 10 feet below the surface and had deteriorated significantly, looked like.

Piettro said this situation was handled perfectly by all involved; all procedures for identifying a possible explosive were followed correctly, including notifying emergency services, she said.

The Raritan Arsenal, a site that encompasses about 3,200 acres and is primarily located in Edison, was in operation from 1917 to 1963. The Army Corps has been working on the site as part of its Defense Environmental Restoration Program for Formerly Used Defense Sites program.

Through this federal program, the Army Corps is leading efforts to investigate and clean up sites like the Raritan Arsenal. The Army Corps holds both regular update meetings for the public as well as special meetings when it reaches a project milestone that requires community input or notification.

At the meeting, Piettro said work at the arsenal site is progressing on schedule. A feasibility study and proposed plan regarding some groundwater concerns will be presented to the state this summer. Piettro said she could not share further details because of its pending nature. In some areas, however, the groundwater is reaching a steady state on its own, Piettro said.

“Nature is taking its course,” she said. “Contaminants are decaying on their own.”

Another area of concern, known as 18D, is a small parcel owned by three different entities. The Army Corps will be conducting remedial investigations there this summer as it looks for additional possible munitions.

Piettro said the Army Corps has spent $92 million on the site over the past 20 years. This year’s spend is estimated to be $2.6 million, with the projected cost to complete work at the site totaling $8.2 million.

In response to a question on the work that has been going on in Sayreville as part of the same effort, Piettro said the Army Corps’ work there is largely complete. However, the team will return to do soil sampling in the future, she said.