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Playa Grande Beach on the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge Closed to Protect Public While Potential Munition Is Investigated

Release Date: 12/09/2014
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664,

      (New York, N.Y.) – The EPA is closely monitoring activities related to potential munitions debris spotted in the water off the shore of the Playa Grande beach area of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) and urges residents and tourists to heed a local beach closing. The Playa Grande area of the Refuge has been closed since Sunday, December 7, 2014 to protect beachgoers while the Navy investigates what appears to be a 105mm projectile near the shoreline. On Saturday, the Navy had removed several pieces of debris from the beach, which included the tail of a spent mortar and a 105 millimeter projectile, a “Bomb Dummy Unit,” used in training and 3.5 inch rocket motor, all of which were spent and posed no risk to beachgoers. When a projectile was subsequently spotted in the water, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closed the beach as a precaution until a more thorough evaluation can be conducted. That investigation is ongoing.

      The beach will remain closed until the investigation is completed. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has closed the road to the beach. They will update the public through their Vieques Refuge Facebook page and several community blogs, as well as through a mailing list. To access the public advisory, visit

      In 2005, the EPA added portions of Vieques Island, Puerto Rico to the Superfund National Priorities List. During the 1940s, the U.S. Navy acquired about 25,000 acres on the eastern and western ends of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Vieques was used for naval gunfire support and air-to-ground training from the 1940s until May 1, 2003, when the Navy ceased all military operations on the island.

      Included in the Superfund site are areas on both the eastern and western sides of the island, as well as nearby waters. On the eastern side, the site includes the former Vieques Naval Training Range, which consists of 14,573 acres and was used for ground warfare and amphibious training, naval gunfire support training and air to ground training. On the western site, the site includes the former Naval Ammunition Support Detachment (NASD). The 8,114 acre NASD was used mainly for ammunition loading and storage and vehicle and facility maintenance. The waters surrounding all these areas are largely uncharacterized; however identified areas of concern include waters impacted by target practice on eastern Vieques, ship anchoring areas north of Vieques, and waters near western Vieques, including Mosquito Pier. For more information about the Vieques Island/Atlantic Weapons Training Area site, visit