As reported by Donna Weaver for The Atlantic City Press.
SURF CITY – The $17.7 million cleanup of World War I-era munitions pumped ashore during a beach-replenishment project in Surf City will fall on the shoulders of the federal government.
U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton, R-3rd, announced late Wednesday afternoon that the long-awaited 2009 Defense Authorization Bill was approved by Congress.
Jeff Sagnip Hollendonner, Saxton’s spokesman, said the bill contains language that will make the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government assume all responsibility. Saxton was responsible for inserting the language into the bill this spring.
Initially, cleanup costs would have been spilt among the federal, local and state governments. The state and local governments would have split 35 percent of the cost between them, and the federal government would have been responsible for 65 percent of the cost.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 392-39 and has passed the Senate. The amendment was accepted by the House Armed Services Committee, of which Saxton is a senior member. The measure now goes to the White House for signature.
Beaches were closed last year after it was discovered that a project that pumped 880,000 cubic yards of sand onto this small town’s beaches also pumped hundreds of military munitions ashore. Since last year, more than 1,100 munitions have been discovered.In a statement released Wednesday, Saxton said the passing of the bill is a successful conclusion as to who will pay for the cost of the munitions cleanup.
“The Corps of Engineers, it’s not only their job to fix it but pay 100 percent of the cost to fix it,” Saxton said. “This language will soon become law and the federal government will assume past, current and future costs of the cleanup.”
Any cleanup cost that was incurred locally or at the state level will be reimbursed, Hollendonner said.
“It was Jim’s final week in his career as a legislator in D.C., and this was great loose end to tie up,” he said.
The $17.7 million cleanup, which is almost three times the initial project cost of $6 million, will entail sieving and digging up sections of the beach and sifting the sand through special screening devices. The beach will be dug to the depth of the sand replenishment down to the surf but the dunes will not be dug up. Digging the dunes would cost about $9 million more. Munitions buried in the dunes still have the potential to surface or migrate onto the beach during a hurricane or northeaster, according to the corps.
So $17.7 million does not bring any guarantees of a munitions-free beach, and Surf City Mayor Leonard T. Connors said he is left wondering about that price tag. Connors has steadfastly maintained that the corps is responsible for pumping the munitions onto the beach, and therefore the federal government should be responsible for the cost of the cleanup.
“I’m happy to see they’ll clean up their mess, but a mistake that costs $17 million, more than the project itself, and no one lost their job. It just seems like a lot of money,” Connors said.
The corps has said that, to its knowledge, no one has been reprimanded for the mistakes in Surf City.
For the full story check out The Atlantic City Press.