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Construction isn't booming near Fort Meade: WWII shell was a dud

Maryland is nothing if not proud of its ties to the military. The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, a number of army bases around the state, the air facility that most of us still think of as Andrews Air Force Base and the famous, if not infamous, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda all add up to a significant military presence here. And, thanks to the Maryland's superior ports, that presence goes back a couple of centuries at least.

So with all of the active military around for so long, it is not entirely surprising that construction workers would come across the occasional unexploded ordnance, as workers did recently at a construction site near Fort Meade. To avoid a more unpleasant surprise, authorities evacuated nearby homes while investigators checked out the device.

A Fort Meade spokeswoman described the object as resembling "a tiny torpedo." The workers had uncovered a World War II-era mortar round that investigators determined was not lethal. Once authorities had property disposed of the ordnance, homeowners were allowed back in their homes.

The spokeswoman added that another unexploded device had been found last month, and that it's a fairly common occurrence. So common, in fact, that "anyone who does construction or utility work is made aware that they could find [this type of thing]," the representative said. She did not say who, exactly, makes contractors aware.

This story got us to thinking about real estate sales and potentially dangerous objects or conditions that may go unnoticed. Not everything is visible to the naked eye. Some things are hidden underground, and not all of them are harmless. In the law, these are known as "defects."

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of property defects: latent (hidden) defects and patent (obvious) defects. And generally sellers and real estate agents and even construction companies are obligated to disclose patent defects, including any defects that the seller, agent and so on could discover during a reasonable inspection.

If only it were that easy. We'll pick this up next week.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "WWII-era unexploded ordnance found at Fort Meade," Carrie Wells, April 4, 2014

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