By MARY ELLEN MacINTYRE Cape Breton Bureau
Published February 20, 2013 – 8:34pm
Last Updated February 20, 2013 – 8:39pm
Ex-military engineer: People realizing risks
SYDNEY — Terry Long is a worried man and he’s been worried for a number of years.
But for the first time the former military engineer believes the day is coming when his fears about dumped munitions might be addressed.
“Everywhere around the world, people are starting to realize that munitions are a major human health risk and have an environmental impact,” Long said Wednesday during an interview at his Sydport Industrial Park office.
Long has worked clearing munitions from land and underwater sites since leaving the military in 1989.
In 2004, he formed the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions, a non-governmental organization that provides a platform for industry, politicians and stakeholders to explore and address the issue.
It’s an issue that hits close to home, Long said.
“We have more than 3,000 sites off Nova Scotia and that’s probably only about half of them,” he said.
Most are filled with munitions from the First and Second World Wars, but the practice of dumping excess munitions into the sea occurred right up to the 1970s, Long said.
“If you … walk along the Bedford Basin, you can see all the munitions in the water when the tide goes out,” he said. “You can look on the side of the ammunition compound and you can see the erosion and munitions falling off the side of the bank.
“Then you look in the water and see the lobster boats come in and catch lobster.”
He said he honestly believes “the ocean is dying” from the chemicals in munitions that have been dumped in them.
“I really want to make people aware of the dangers and the issues that are affecting our oceans.”
Cleaning up the munition sites would help preserve fish stocks “because if we continue the way we’re going there won’t be any fish left,” Long said.
Around the world, industries working on and under the seas, such as those that build underwater pipelines, are encountering more of these underwater munition dump sites and it is costing them money, he said.
As an example, Long pointed to a pipeline recently installed in the Baltic Sea.
“It was to be 1,100 kilometres long, but they had to put in another 700 kilometres, at a cost of $5 billion, just to avoid munitions,” he said.
Long also operates Wentworth Environmental Inc., a company that identifies the scope of an underwater or land-based munitions problem, maps it and then cleans it up.
While his focus is currently on advocacy, he admits his company could benefit from it as well.
“Some day, when they start cleaning (the sites) up, then maybe my company will be out there with the rest of them” helping to clean them up, he said.
His company’s most recent acquisition is an autonomous underwater vehicle, which he is shipping to Holland where it will be used to hunt for munitions in that country’s rivers and lakes.
Long is also a co-director of ChemSea, an organization that is conducting a search for and an assessment of munition dump sites in the Baltic Sea. The organization includes eight countries that border on the sea.
He is also the special invited guest of Helsinki Commission’s ad hoc working group for chemical munitions.
In April, he will chair an international dialogue on underwater munitions at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons conference in the Hague.
For more information on the issue visit Long’s website at: www.underwatermunitions.org.