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Boaters urged to exercise caution

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

SUBMITTED PHOTO
Garrison Petawawa has deployed marker buoys, like this one, to warn boaters of prohibited areas on the Ottawa River. While beaches have been cleared of unexploded ordnance, officials warn of possible encounters with unexploded munitions not yet recovered.

SUBMITTED PHOTO Garrison Petawawa has deployed marker buoys, like this one, to warn boaters of prohibited areas on the Ottawa River. While beaches have been cleared of unexploded ordnance, officials warn of possible encounters with unexploded munitions not yet recovered.

Ottawa River beaches stretching along the garrison's eastern border have been cleared, officials are reminding boaters of possible encounters with unexploded munitions.

The warning comes as folks mark the half-way point of the summer with the August long weekend. In a press release Tuesday, the garrison asked boaters to exercise caution along a 6.5-kilometre stretch of beach-front property from Black Bear Beach north to Black Point.

In 2007, the Department of National Defence opened six beaches following the completion of a $5-million project that cleared Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXO) from an area comprised of 27 hectares of beach and 167 hectares of river bottom. Those cleared beaches include Kiska, Antler Point, Wegner Point, and Gust Point.

Under the DND UXO and Legacy Sites program, nearly 200 UXOs were recovered during remediation operations between 2001 and 2006. Among the items found on the beaches were parachute flares, smoke grenades, artillery rounds, mortar shells, Russian projectiles and 18-pound shrapnel.

"Garrison Petawawa is 109 year's old and over that time a large number of exercises would have occurred in the training area," said 4th Canadian Division Support Group senior operations officer Major John Maerz. "A river is constantly flowing and while the risk is low, the reality of UXOs washing up on the beach along riverbanks is very real and residents should always be cautious."

While it is rare for munitions to wash up on our shores, it does sometimes happen. In 2005, a 12-inch long artillery shell was on the beach behind Nelson Street in Pembroke. Military ammunition technicians determined that the 50-year-old shell hadn't been fired. It was removed to Base Petawawa and disposed of. In 2006, two live 80-pound shells, used during the First World War, were found near Supples Landing in Pembroke. They were removed and disposed of without incident.

The spoils of war continue to pop up 70 years after the end of the Second World War. Last week, vacationers found a 14-inch shell on a Cape Cod beach forcing its closure for several hours until a bomb squad detonated the object in its place.

Although the project reduced the threat of UXOs, sandy beaches and the constant flow of the river means there can never be absolute certainty that all UXO hazards have been detected and removed.

To warn the public of this hazard, buoys, fences, and warning signs have been erected for their protection. The garrison strongly advises that boaters to obey these instructions and for their safety these areas are strictly considered off limits.

Should you come upon an unexploded device, you are cautioned not to touch or disturb the object as it could detonate. Remember the location, mark it if possible without touching the item and leave the area. You are then asked to call 911 or Garrison Petawawa Military Police at 613-687-5555 immediately.

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist


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