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Disposal team to respond to potential unexploded ordnance near Unalaska shore

Grenades, chemical weapons and other munitions have been turning up on the island’s hiking trails and beaches for decades.
Theo Greenly
Grenades, chemical weapons and other munitions have been turning up on the island’s hiking trails and beaches for decades.

Munition experts will visit Unalaska on Friday to respond to what might be an unexploded device that was found on Unalaska’s shore.

Fire Chief Ben Knowles responded to the call earlier in the month when someone reported a suspicious object.

“A hiker came in and reported what they believed to be an old unexploded ordnance, resembling some sort of landmine, anti-personnel, or other mine,” Knowles said.

The device is partially submerged in the ground, making it difficult to move without disturbing it.

“This is the first time that I've dealt with something that's embedded in the ground, or this close to town,” Knowles said. “We've had several unexploded ordnances over the time period that I've been here on the island. It's usually a hand grenade or munitions of some sort, and they're actually physically brought into the station.”

The Department of Public Safety couldn’t safely remove the device themselves, so they sent pictures to an expert with the Army Corps of Engineers, who said to exercise caution.

Knowles said there is no imminent threat to the public, but advises the community to use caution and stay away from the location. Cones are in place to keep people away from the site near the S-Curves.

“Obviously, our cones keep blowing down. So not ideal, but it stays in the same place. It has not moved. And it appears to be banged up by rocks. The tide comes in, and it brings a bunch of debris and covers it and the tide goes out and uncovers it,” Knowles said. “So we're heeding the warnings of the [bomb disposal team] and the specialists to stay clear of the area as much as possible until they can get that team down here.”

Representatives from Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson and the Army Corps of Engineers are scheduled to arrive in Unalaska on Friday.

Theo Greenly reports from the Aleutians as a Report for America corps member. He got his start in public radio at KCRW in Santa Monica, California, and has produced radio stories and podcasts for stations around the country.
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