In a recent post (maybe an old post I was reading for the first time) an individual as unsure of the safety of a small arms cartridge and asked the disposition. Once of the responses was “to find the nearest body of water” and dump it. I cringed when I read it then, and having a few minutes spare this morning I wanted to respond.
Most police departments will accept old ammunition and related items. Bomb squads will come and pick up ordnance items. Generally unless there is evidence of a crime connected they need little or no additional information, just drop it and go.
Dumping and burying are done out of ignorance, for the harm that this does to the environment, and in the ignorant belief that this will destroy or reduce the hazard. Here in Michigan there is no place 6 miles from a lake or river. As a result, ammunition and ordnance items have been dumped into our waterways since the French Canadians were in residence. It is all still there. While it is one cartridge to you (or one box, or belt, or case) over the decades this amounts to thousands of rounds. This creates a concentration of heavy metals and other toxic materials.
In our region I provide assistance to bomb squads in the identification of ordnance and their hazards. In the past several months we have seen a large quantity of recoveries from ponds, rivers, and lakes by people “magnet fishing”. This activity has become popular all over the world, and is revealing one small slice (iron based) of what were are dumping. Since September I have seen several 2.36" rockets (bazooka), numerous 3.5" rockets, 4 MKII grenades. While some of these are empty munitions, more than you would think are still live. Others you cannot be sure, so you must treat them as live. These items are most often being recovered by kids, 12-17 years old.
The most recent item was last night, I was sent the following picture:
This is a WWI German granatenwerfer. In its current location and condition it is not possible to tell if it is explosively loaded or not. It was recovered by three boys magnet fishing in a river in the west side of Michigan. It is hard to tell how long ago it was dumped, because in the mud corrosion can be significantly delayed.
I strongly recommend that if you have something that you need disposed of you contact the authorities. In most cases they could care less where you got it, they just don’t want it dumped like this.