From WestSideConnect.com, “Probe continues into farm field mystery” by Mattos Newspapers, 26 Mar 2011.
Material not believed to be military munitions
GUSTINE [CA] – The discovery of a substance that burst into flames when unearthed by a farm worker south of Gustine two weeks ago apparently continues to be a puzzle.
But a Merced County official said Tuesday that material was probably not military munitions.
One of the initial theories was that the material was left-over military ordnance or related material, dating back decades to the years when an area bombing range was used for training purposes.
Now that doesn’t appear to be the case, according to William Peeler, the director of the county’s environmental health division.
“We have been told that there was previously a house located at the site where the material was discovered,” Peeler stated in a Tuesday morning e-mail. “Based on a description of the material when discovered and in talking with the Army Corps of Engineers, we now think that it is unlikely the material is related to military munitions.”
The house was removed 60 years ago, he noted.
A worker tilling a field near Bunker Road dug up the material March 9.
The substance ignited when exposed to air, and reportedly glittered when shovels of the earth were tossed into the air. It covered an area about 12-feet square, which has subsequently been cordoned off while officials investigate.
Peeler said the county remains in continual contact with the state department of toxic substance control, the city of Merced bomb squad and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its investigative efforts.
The county is hoping to enlist the assistance of the EPA emergency response unit, Peeler indicated.