November 1959, USS Calhoun County left the naval pier in New Jersey to dump hundreds of barrels of atomic waste into the ocean about 160km offshore.

November 1959, USS Calhoun County left the naval pier in New Jersey to dump hundreds of barrels of atomic waste into the ocean about 160km offshore.
Photo Credit: US Department of Defense film- YouTube

The silent killers on the ocean floor

Around the world thousands of tons of munitions lie rusting on the ocean floor. They consist of both explosives and chemical weapons. As the metal rusts away, the toxic chemicals are exposed causing an environmental wasteland around them.

Terrence Long is chairman of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions,(IDUM) a Canadian and Dutch-based NGO.

Listen
Terrance P. Long greets Professor Vadim Paka from the Russian Academy of Sciences on board the research vessel Oceania of the Polish Academy of Sciences in the Baltic Sea during chemical weapons investigation under NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) MODUM.
Terrance P. Long (L) greets Professor Vadim Paka (R) from the Russian Academy of Sciences on board the research vessel Oceania of the Polish Academy of Sciences in the Baltic Sea during chemical weapons investigation under NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) MODUM. © supplied

Long says the leaking munitions on the seafloor have already been affecting marine life and it will only get worse.

He was involved in the first weapons identification programme called the Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons Baltic Sea (CHEMSEA), a three‐year investigation in the Baltic Sea

In exploration of many sites where leakage has occurred, he said there was no life at all on the ocean floor. He says fish caught near such sites often displayed cancers on the skin or internally.

The research also found young fish to be less successful in reproducing thus preventing fish such as cod from proliferating and thereby contributing to a decline in stocks.

Close-up of a cancerous cod fish caught near a known area of a munitions dump
Close-up of a cancerous cod fish caught near a known area of a munitions dump in the Baltic © IDUM

The second chemical weapons program, is on‐going with NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Towards the Monitoring of Dumped Munitions (MODUM), that employs new and emerging technologies to detect, map, investigate, sample, and analyze chemical weapons and warfare materials.

Sonar locates a broken container of toxic chemical on the floor of the Baltic. There is no life at all anywhere near the container.
Sonar locates a broken container of toxic chemical on the floor of the Baltic. There is no life at all anywhere near the container. © IDUM

The third chemical and conventional weapons program, started recently “Decision Aid for Marine Munitions” (DAIMON) aims to increase the knowledge base to evaluate risks and benefits of various management options for the assessment of how dumped ammunition impacts ecosystem, maritime activities, and humans as seafood consumers. Long is currently speaking to members of the Atlanta-base US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) about human health risks associated with dumped munitions.

Piles of WWII 4.7in naval shells dumped on the ocean floor off Nova Scotia.
Piles of WWII 4.7in naval shells dumped on the ocean floor off Nova Scotia. © UDIM

Long is also currently involved in the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Summer School for Young Sciences on Sea Dumped chemical Weapons in Halifax.

In spite of these programmes, Long says it’s not nearly enough of an effort to deal with a massive worldwide problem. He would like to see the United Nations get behind the idea and propose a large scale international effort.

A modern aerial weapon found off the coast of Belgium. Just like in WWII, if they can’t be launched over their target, planes can’t return and land with armed bombs so they are jettisoned into the ocean or lakes.
A modern aerial weapon found off the coast of Belgium. Just like in WWII, if they can’t be launched over their target, planes can’t return and land with armed bombs so they are jettisoned into the ocean or lakes. © IDUM

Long says with literally tens of thousands, if not millions, of tonnes of munitions rusting on the ocean floor, the potential for a slow but steady marine catastrophe is a very real and very present danger.

Map showing possible ordnance dump sites around Nova Scotai and other maritime provinces
Map showing hundreds of known and suspected ordnance dump sites around Nova Scotia and other maritime provinces

Additional information

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Economy, Environment, International, Military, Politics, Science and Technology

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

*

One comment on “The silent killers on the ocean floor
  1. tom power says:

    Mark, we had a fish kill on the western shore here near Digby , NS, and very likely due to disposed munitions and that’s just what we can see that washed up on the shoreline. Just how much is out there off the coast in Nova Scotia. And what the hell are we eating then!