SOME LOCAL LEGENDS DIE HARD. You hear rumors about the flying saucer the Smithsonian supposedly has tucked away at Silver Hill in Prince George's County. And there's talk about Big Foot's little brother, the swamp creature out in the White Marsh area of Baltimore County. And then there are the obsolete bombs that the Navy blows up at Indian Head, Md.

"They shoot off some hellacious stuff there," a Potomac River fisherman told me last summer, pointing to the shoreside "Danger" signs warning boaters to stay clear of the Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Tech Center. "Old artillery shells, bombs -- you can hear it for miles," he whispered.

I've heard similar tales for years. The bombs get bigger each year.

As it turns out, fiction is stranger than truth in this instance.

"We don't actually dispose of ordnance {military explosives} here," says Cmdr. David J. Turriff, the facility's executive officer. "In fact, detonation is not the normal means of disposal. As aging ordnance is systematically replaced, the explosives are usually reclaimed rather than detonated."

Reclaimed? Like for the nickel deposit?

Turriff explains that bombs and other munitions that can't be salvaged are exploded in the desert at China Lake, Calif., and White Sands, N.M.

But what about the deafening blasts? The intimidating signs?

Well, Turriff concedes that the Navy does run the Explosive Ordnance Disposal School on the premises and that servicemen do practice with high-explosive charges.

Ah, now we're on to something.

"But we have a self-imposed limit of six pounds," he says. "Often the amount is less than a pound."

It's a smoke screen, right? I ask a Navy munitions expert: How much pop is there in a pound of explosives?

"About like that," says Lt. Cmdr. Dan Renwick, pointing to a small crater on Range Six. It's about a yard across and half that deep.

The EOD Tech Center is one bunker we can debunk right now. I've seen bigger holes on the Whitehurst Freeway. ::