WATERTOWN — A resident digging on his Clay Street property found an unexploded military shell Tuesday evening, prompting police to evacuate the neighborhood.
Police said Bradley Castor was working on his driveway and was using a skid-steer to dig near a retaining wall next to his house when he found a 77 mm shell that appeared to be of World War II vintage.
City police arrived at about 7 p.m., blocked off the area and evacuated homes on both sides of the 500 block of Clay Street.
Called to the scene, three members of the U.S. Army’s 760th Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from Fort Drum determined the World War II 75 mm artillery shell was safe.
Team members spent much of the time walking back and forth from their black pickup loaded with bomb disposal equipment down a few houses to where the shell was found.
“We deemed it safe, so I’m going down and grab it and bring it back here,” a member of the team told Watertown police. “Then we’ll get our equipment and you can open up the road.”
He carried the foot-long shell carefully in both hands and then secured it in the back of the truck. The shell was taken to Fort Drum where it was destroyed, police said.
A handful of people who live in an apartment building at the corner of Clay and Keyes Avenue sat on a curb waiting for the outcome. They were able to return to their homes at about 9:45 p.m.
One of the tenants said he was watching a John Wayne western when police knocked on his door and told him he had to get out.
Afterward, he said, “at least it didn’t explode.”
Det. Lt. Joseph Donoghue said unexploded ordnance are unearthed occasionally, also noting that in 1922 an unexploded shell was found behind a Dimmick Street residence. In that instance, eight children playing with the device were killed when it subsequently detonated.
“That’s why we take precautions,” he said.
The Watertown Fire Department and Guilfoyle Ambulance also responded to the scene.