ESSEX, MASS. (WHDH) - Approximately six homes in the Town of Essex were evacuated after a cleaning crew found an “unknown piece of ordinance” inside a house, later determined to be an inert mortar shell according to local police.

Both Essex Police and Fire were originally called to Wood Drive around 10:30 a.m. where the apparent ordinance was found. According to authorities, a group of workers had been cleaning out a recently sold property when they came across the object.

“The cleaning company was in there, getting ready for the new owners to come in, and they saw something that they thought was suspicious,” said Essex Police Chief Paul Francis.

Local officials soon called in a State Police bomb squad and, following an initial investigation, evacuated the southern end of the neighborhood “out of an abundance of caution.”

Boaters and swimmers at the nearby Chebacco Lake were also asked to keep their distance as the investigation continued.

Officials were eventually able to determine the object was, in fact, a mortar shell that was inert and intended for military training. The shell was later handed over to an explosive ordinance unit with the U.S. Navy for disposal.

A sweep of the house found no other potentially hazardous or suspicious objects, according to police. First responders later cleared the scene around 1:30 p.m., having completed their investigation.

“I want to thank our partners at the Massachusetts State Police and the FBI for their assistance with this matter,” Chief Francis said in a statement. “Old, unexploded items like this mortar shell can be very dangerous, but that is why we have established policies and procedures for responding to these incidents safely and in collaboration with the appropriate outside agencies.”

A press release also noted that no charges were pending in the case.

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