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Sweep of Little Patuxent Finds 47 Bazooka Rockets

Fort Meade officials said the number of munitions found is the lowest in 10 years in an annual sweep of the river in an area that was once a firing range.

Weapons technicians discovered 47 practice rockets in the Little Patuxent River during an annual sweep of an area once used as a bazooka range.

The WWII-era rockets were about 2.3 inches in length and posed no threat, Army officials said. The total found was the fewest since munitions sweeps began in 2001, according to Gretchen Welshofer, a scientist and risk assessor from URS Corporation, which was contracted by Fort Meade to perform the sweep.

Five experts from URS walked side by side along an 8-acre stretch of the Little Patuxent River on Sept. 20. The sweep included an area from the Old Forge Bridge to just south of Maryland Route 198.

In addition to the practice rockets, they found five practice rocket motors, Welshofer said.

URS and Fort Meade officials presented the results of the munitions sweep to members of the Fort Meade Restoration Advisory Board on Thursday night.

Since 2001, 687 practice rockets have been found in the Little Patuxent and along its banks. Of those, only four items were found to be potentially dangerous. In 2008, technicians found two white phosphorous-filled rockets and they found two live practice motors in 2005.

That area of Little Patuxent River is marked as off-limits to visitors, but people do occasionally fish and swim there, Welshofer said.

She said the munitions sweeps will likely continue until it’s determined they are no longer necessary.

“Over the course of ten years, the number of practice rockets has been decreasing,” Welshofer said. “The numbers are going down, but we’re still finding them.”

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