WWII explosives being carefully removed from old test site in Burlco

PALMYRA, N.J. (WPVI) -- An old testing ground for World War II munitions is being painstakingly cleared in Palmyra, New Jersey.

At least 700 explosives are buried underground and highly trained experts have been hired to dig them up for security reasons.

Six years after clearing over 300 unexploded shells from the parking lot of the Tacony-Palmyra fleamarket off route 73, crews are back in the area looking for more.

During the 1940s and 50s the Frankford Arsenal used what's now part of the Palmyra Cove nature Park as a testing range for top-secret weapons.

The flags you see each mark a spot where highly sensitive metal detectors found what could be unexploded shells buried under ground. At this point more than 700 locations have been identified.

"They are between 5 mm and 104 mm ordnance and high explosive antitank weapons that were developed by the Army. These are high explosives that are literally just sub surface," said John Gural, Palmyra Business Administrator.

Using former military bomb disposal experts, a Tennessee-based company has its crews moving from flag to flag searching for old munitions.

"Our personnel will identify a target location, put the box over it and investigate it with handheld shovels and pick axes if need be. Once it's identified, then we can go ahead and pull it out of the ground," said Daryl Satko from the Munitions Management Group.

It's expected to take until mid-February to dig up the munitions from under each of these flags. The process right now is being slowed down by cold weather and frozen ground.

The 1.9 million dollar project is being paid for by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Local officials say the process is slow, deliberate and necessary.

"First and foremost, it's for the safety of people who are visiting here. In the long term we're looking for some redevelopment opportunities," said Palmyra Mayor Michelle Arnold (R).

Bomb crews believe there are several hundred more unexploded shells that may be under a berm on property belonging to the flea market, but local officials say the owners won't let them dig there.

The borough has asked state environmental officials to intervene since it's important to get the bombs out of the ground.

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