Issue of Unexploded Ordnance in Nashua River at Devens Being Addressed
The Nashua River Watershed Association has received a letter of appreciation from Environmental Protection Agency Region I Administrator Deborah Szaro (now former), thanking NRWA for supporting the EPA in their Formal Dispute with the US Army “to address imminent threats and endangerment to human health and the environment posed by the potential presence of Munitions and Explosives of Concern (‘MEC’) within and along the Nashua River.”
In the summer of 2020, unexploded ordnance were retrieved from the bottom of the Nashua River in Devens by individuals who were magnet fishing. In 2021, divers working on a bridge footing discovered more MEC in the river. While no injuries occurred, MEC are potentially dangerous, and explosive experts were called to properly dispose of the items. At that time, NRWA provided assistance to Devens and surrounding communities in notifying the public about this potential danger. Mass Development passed regulations last year to prohibit magnet fishing where MEC were found, and the Army conducted a preliminary scan of the area. NRWA continued to follow the matter and supported Devens officials and the EPA in efforts to have the Army comprehensively address the issue.
This stretch of the Nashua River as it runs through Devens is an active recreational area for paddlers and anglers. It is additionally an area where the NRWA has been working for several years to scout for and remove invasive water chestnut plants, an activity which can disturb the river bed where MEC may be submerged. To support the EPA in their negotiations with the Army, NRWA wrote a letter about our concerns and provided the EPA with a map of the areas where staff has conducted these activities. Those areas overlap with the areas where MEC have been found recently. View map.
As a result of the Formal Dispute discussions, “Army has agreed to conduct additional work to assess potential threats posed by MEC in the River. This work includes not only evaluation of areas in close proximity to the three different locations where MEC was encountered in 2020 and 2021, but also in the areas where the NRWA conducts invasive species scouting and removal activities…” View EPA-US Army Dispute Resolution.
The NRWA appreciates the efforts of the EPA, the Army, and local communities in addressing this issue.
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Photo: Nashua River in Devens, MA, photo by Neil Angus.