"The family of IVER’s, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV’s), has proven themselves be the Work Horse of the Sea for our underwater munitions surveys, sampling and science investigations."

Terrance P. Long,
Chair and CEO, International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM),
The Hague, The Netherlands

UN Oceans Action Newsletter #1


On 12 September 2017, Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st session of the General Assembly, as his Special Envoy for the Ocean.


To date 1402 Voluntary Commitments have been registered for the implementation of SDG 14 through the dedicated Ocean Conference online database. The registry remains open for new commitments to be registered by all stakeholders, click the button below to register a new Voluntary Commitment.


To support implementation of the voluntary commitments, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean Mr. Peter Thomson, in collaboration with UN DESA, will be supporting Communities of Ocean Action among all stakeholders to spur further action and maintain the momentum generated by the first ever UN Ocean Conference held in June 2017.  As a first step, on 7 September 2017, a webinar was organized with a focus on arrangements for following up on voluntary commitments, establishing action communities among stakeholders, and hearing updates from participants on commitments related to mangroves. Read more …


The International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM) have established an action plan based on their commitment “Establishment of the International Marine Training Centre for Innovative Science and Technology for Sea Dumped Weapons, and Shipborne Disposal Solutions to Support the Eradication of all Underwater Munitions”(#OceanAction21356) and are mobilizing partners in the private sector to establish center, in addition to developing a roadmap for an International Treaty on Munitions. Read more …

“The Ocean Cleanup”, (#OceanAction15227) is a commitment aimed at environmentally friendly, large-scale and efficiently remove plastic pollution from aquatic ecosystems. The initiative led by The Ocean Cleanup Foundation has successfully deployed The New North Sea Prototype, to test and verify system components ahead of the deployment of their first cleanup system in mid-2018. Read more …

Marine Educator Krishna helps the students from Baie Lazare Primary School (Seychelles) learn about mangroves.

As part of their voluntary commitment related to marine education and reduction of marine plastic (#OceanAction20396), WiseOceans pledged to launch an education programme in the SIDS by 2020. In collaboration with their partners, Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, WiseOceans have launched a programme with Baie Lazare Primary School in Seychelles, mangroves being one of the topics covered. The programme includes traditional classroom based sessions (involving a presentation), and a field trip. Additionally, the children of the programme has created a mural for their school wall on mangroves. The programme is being promoted through social media channels, and has been recognized by the Ministry of Education, Seychelles. Read more …

The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), a partnership between governments, international organizations, and non-government organizations, has launched a grants programme based on its plan of action 2016-2018 as part of their voluntary commitment “The ICRI plan of Action 2016-2018” (#OceanAction16778). Among the five themes of the plan of action is the commitment to raise awareness on the importance of coral reefs and related ecosystems to help mitigate the impact of climate change, and encourage financing for projects and initiatives which aim to protect and restore coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses. ICRI is hoping to fund at least one mangroves related project related. Read more …

The voluntary commitment “Multi-stakeholder efforts to enhance socio-ecological landscape resilience in Pakistan’s Indus Delta area” (#OceanAction19371) by UNDP/GEF Small Grants Program Pakistan is reporting that, to date, approximately 7000 acres of Mangroves have been conserved through reforestation processes and other co-related activities of their commitment to enhance socio-ecological landscape resilience in Pakistan’s Indus Delta. Furthermore, 240 Master Trainers have been trained on Mangrove Plantations in the region. Read more …

The voluntary commitment “Taking Action to Increase Mangrove Habitat 20% by 2030” (#OceanAction14787), a partnership between the Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, are reporting to have officially launched The Global Mangrove Alliance with the aim to reverse the loss of critically important mangrove habitats worldwide. The Global Mangrove Alliance is a unique platform that brings together technical experts, civil society organizations, governments, local communities, businesses, funding agencies and foundations to accelerate a comprehensive, coordinated, global approach to mangrove conservation and restoration at a scale that matters. The Alliance brings an extensive portfolio of mangrove work to the table, creating a strong baseline from which to scale up mangrove conservation and restoration efforts. Read more …

The voluntary commitment “Blue Carbon Code of Conduct” (#OceanAction20420), aimed at harnessing the carbon value of coastal ecosystems in order to achieve goals in conservation and climate change, announced that over 40 NGOs, 5 academic institutions, 47 members of the scientific community, and the UN Environment, have signed up and endorsed the initiative. Read more …

Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) Conservation Trust, following up on its commitment titled “Phoenix Islands Protected Area: Bring PIPA Home” (#OceanAction20784), has developed a partnership with the Ministry of Environment of Kiribati in order to establish a coordinated effort for mangrove replantation. PIPA also supported Kiribati during the Pacific Islands Roundtable.                Read more …

The Sustainable Solutions Ocean Opportunities on Small Island States project, led by World Team Now, has been assessing and removing invasive species, and replanting mangroves, in Fiji, as part of their voluntary commitment “The World Team Project: Sustainable Solutions Oceans Opportunities & Small Island States (SOS-IS)” (#OceanAction21714). They are also reaching out to various stakeholders and donors in New York and California in order to bring additional resources. Read more …

The voluntary commitment “Plant 100,000 mangrove plants in 10 hectares of wetland between 2017 and 2018 in Guanaja” (#OceanAction17254) by Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) Guanaja announced that they to date have replanted 20% of their target of 100,000 mangrove plants in 10 hectares of wetland, approximately 10,000 plants per hectare. These plants will be planted in wetland areas around the island of Guanaja, Honduras. Read more …

International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions Voluntary Commitment to the UNEP Ocean Action #21356

Establishment of the International Marine Training Centre for Innovative Science and Technology for Sea Dumped Weapons, and Shipborne Disposal Solutions to Support the Eradication of all Underwater Munitions

INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE ON UNDERWATER MUNITIONS (IDUM), commits to create an International Marine Training Center in Canada and The Netherlands for Innovative Science and Technology for underwater munitions and, to Cooperate with the international community, state parties, local and regional governments, commissions, conventions, international bodies, defense, NGO’s, donors, private and public sectors on underwater munitions.

The Center will serve as the global focal point for exchange of information to further increase knowledge and awareness of Underwater Munitions Policy, Science, Technology and Responses by:

1. Cooperate to develop Policy and Standards, including an International Treaty for all Underwater Munitions on Human Health and Environment.

2. Creating Global Awareness on the Impact from Underwater Munitions on Human Health, Environment.

3. Creating a Global Database and Regional Maps of Underwater Munitions Sites for the Exchange of Information.

4. Developing an International Underwater Testing and Training Centre for Underwater Munitions Innovative Science and Technology Development.

5. Developing International Training Programs on Underwater Munitions for Marine Surveys, Investigations, Recovery, and Disposal.

6. Promoting Global Clean-up by developing Shipborne and in-situ Disposal Solutions for Underwater Munitions.

7. Explore Deepwater Chemical Weapons Site/s to determine the impact on the environment and to develop responses.

Government won’t remove thousands of tons of potentially toxic chemical weapons dumped off US coasts

Recoil-less rifle cartridges on the north shore of the Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. According to a recent study, some fish and shellfish from certain reefs surrounding Vieques contained elevated levels of metals like arsenic and selenium. (Photo: Courtesy of James Barton)

Article by Daniel Ross | Truthout | Oct. 3, 2017

By 1972, when the US officially ended its practice of dumping munitions out to sea, tens of thousands of tons of chemical weapons, conventional munitions and radioactive wastes had been disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico at sites up and down the nation’s coastlines, including Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean.

In the decades that followed, little was done to reckon with the problems these sites presented. Until finally, in 2006, Congress directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to conduct a multi-pronged study to finally figure out just how many chemical and conventional munitions were slowly degrading in US coastal waters, and whether it was feasible to retrieve these munitions from their watery graves. Congress also ordered the DoD to examine the ecological impact from toxic emissions as these munitions slowly corrode under water, and their potential to cause harm to the people who use the oceans — like fishermen, whose nets become entangled with old obsolete bombs as they dredge the sea floor.

In a report to Congress in November of last year, the DoD made its final determination. From both an ecological and safety perspective, it was deemed best to “leave sea-disposed munitions in place,” the department found. It stated that removing or cleaning up munitions sea-disposal dump sites would have “more serious effects on marine life and the ocean environment than would leaving them in place.”

“Utter Nonsense”

The DoD’s plan to leave the munition dump sites untouched is “utter nonsense” and a decision driven by “economics, not legitimate science,” wrote James Barton, a federally recognized munitions expert, in a statement to Truthout.

A 1,000 lb general purpose bomb found in Lake Michigan, in vicinity of the Waugoshance Lighthouse, once used as a bombing target during WWII. (Photo: Courtesy of James Barton)

Barton co-authored a report commissioned by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and its National Center for Environmental Health, published earlier this year, which offers a damning commentary on the Pentagon’s approach to tackling the nation’s underwater munitions problem. The department’s decision, wrote Barton, sets a “dangerous” precedent for hundreds of dump sites around the country. “DoD has no institutional or moral authority to keep the potential threat presented by underwater munitions from being properly assessed, but seem forever committed to that ruse,” he wrote.

The DoD will now leave in place massive amounts of underwater munitions in US coastal waters. These munitions include over 32,000 tons of chemical weapons containing things like lewisite (a blister agent and lung irritant), mustard gas, sarin and the nerve agent VX, according to a 2009 DoD report. The same report identifies 47 individual dump sites along the coastlines of the continental US.

These sites contain a combination of chemical munitions, conventional munitions and radioactive wastes, and they vary in proximity to the coast — some less than a mile from shore, others as far as a few hundred nautical miles away. At one dump site within the Chesapeake Bay, an unknown quantity of explosives sits roughly two nautical miles from the shoreline. At another site some nine nautical miles from the Massachusetts coastline, thousands of projectiles lie 200 feet below the sea surface. Over on the west coast, more than 300,000 mustard gas bombs and nearly 1,500 containers of lewisite sit at a dump site roughly 100 nautical miles from the Northern California shore.

What’s more, old abandoned ordnances don’t always stay where they’re dumped. In recent years, a number of chemical and conventional munitions have washed ashore, while some fishermen have been harmed after coming into contact with chemical munitions pulled up in nets.

According to Terrance Long, chair and CEO of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions in The Hague, and a leading expert in underwater munition dumps worldwide, what the DoD has identified is only the tip of the iceberg, and he estimates that there could be as many as 1,000 separate dump sites in the coastline surrounding the continental US.

“As we continue to survey the ocean, we continue to find more,” Long said, noting that one undocumented dump site near the California coastline is suspected to contain more than 200 scuttled ships loaded with munitions. “What you have is a desktop study conducted by the United States that had limitations to it, so it’s a cursory look into what’s out there,” he said.

Truthout contacted the CDC and the DoD for comment, but neither agency responded in time for publication.

Incomplete Research

The DoD’s 2009 report identifies seven sites surrounding Alaska, two around Puerto Rico and six individual sites around Hawaii, including two off the coast of the island of Oahu. These two sites near Oahu were selected as areas for study to determine whether they and other underwater munition dump sites in US coastal waters should be remediated.

An underwater munition dump site. According to the DoD, there are at least 32,000 tons of chemical weapons dumped in U.S. coastal waters. (Photo: Courtesy of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions)

Using the evidence collected, the DoD determined in its report to Congress last year that known sea-disposal sites “do not pose an unacceptable risk to ecological, environmental, or human health or to maritime safety.”

But the CDC report finds major flaws in the research as it relates to other munition dump sites — primarily with the choice of research areas, and how the detection technologies used can produce “ambiguous results.” If the DoD had instead investigated the nearby Barbers Point Ammo Dump, where munitions are much more heavily concentrated than in the chosen research sites, the scope of the findings would have afforded officials a more accurate picture with which to make an “informed decision” about whether to remediate underwater munitions across the US coastline, the report concluded.

Margo Edwards is interim executive director of the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii, and is one of the scientists who researched the Hawaii Undersea Military Munitions Assessment (HUMMA) dump site to the south of the island of Oahu. Her team only received funding to study this site alone, and their findings suggest that the DoD is right to leave the munitions in place at the HUMMA site, said Edwards: “You can only go by the evidence you have to hand, and the evidence I see right now says that that’s the right decision.” But she admitted that a lack of studies conducted on the other munition dump sites in US waters makes it difficult to accurately determine if and how they, too, should be remediated.

“I haven’t investigated all these other potential areas,” Edwards said. “And I do think it’s possible that there could be another place where the problem needs to be addressed differently.”

Other experts agree that there simply hasn’t been enough research done on underwater munitions.

“I don’t think Hawaii is a surrogate for the rest of the US or even the world,” said Harry Craig, a senior remedial project manager for the US Environmental Protection Agency, with 15 years expertise in underwater munitions under his belt. He explains that chemicals break down and react differently in different environments. Plus, steel corrodes at different rates depending on water depth, salinity and temperature, as well as shell thickness. Some sea-dumped munitions could continue leaking potentially deadly chemicals into the environment for over 100 years, according to some estimates.

“We’ve seen [munitions] that you can still read the writing on them from 1944, and then you’ve got ones that are substantially wasted and falling apart,” said Craig, emphasizing why each site needs to be looked at on an individual basis.

Many Munitions Locations Are Still Unknown

The official green light for the US military to start dumping munitions out to sea was given back in 1917. Rules regarding the location and depth of disposal sites were incrementally tightened over the following decades. The War Department in 1944, for example, required that chemical weapons be disposed of in waters at least 300 feet deep and 10 miles from shore. One year later, chemical weapons weren’t to be disposed of in waters shallower than 6,000 feet. For conventional explosives and ammunition, it was 3,000 feet.

The ocean dumping of munitions accelerated after the end of World War II, when the War Department was left to reckon with a massive stockpile of wartime weapons and bombs. One way they approached the problem was the “Cut Holes and Sink ‘Em” disposal program (coined CHASE), which saw old ships loaded up with tons of conventional and chemical weapons before being scuttled out to sea. But 1969 marked a change in policy direction, when the National Academy of Sciences was asked to study the problem and look at alternative munition disposal practices. In 1972, Congress banned the practice. Then, three years later, the US signed an international treaty prohibiting the dumping of chemical weapons in ocean waters.

An underwater munition dump site. According to Terrance Long, chair and CEO of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions in the Hague, there could be as many as 1000 separate dump sites in the coastline surrounding the continental U.S., many of them currently undocumented. (Photo: Courtesy of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions)

The damage, however, had already been done. For one, the military proved to be a poor record keeper: Its archives are full of holes. “Is there a complete inventory of where this stuff is? No there isn’t,” said Craig. “They were trying to get rid of this stuff, and they were trying to do the least amount of paperwork.”

Nor did those tasked with doing the dumping always stick to the rules. As John Chatterton, a veteran diver and former host of the History Channel’s “Deep Sea Detectives,” put it in a well-received 2005 Daily Press investigative series on underwater munitions, “the guys who were doing this were scared of this stuff…. They were well motivated to get rid of this stuff as fast as they could. So, they could take it all the way out there or else they could say, ‘This is good enough,’ and be back in port in three hours. I know what they did. It’s mariner nature.”

These lingering question marks surrounding the accurate location of existing dump sites is another reason why some experts argue that the DoD is wrong to leave dump sites uniformly untouched, especially given the number of recent examples where the public has come into contact with ordnances abandoned at sea.

In August of last year, a fisherman working along the New Jersey coast was hospitalized with second-degree burns from an old chemical munition he pulled up. Nearly 700 cases of clam chowder were destroyed, for fear of contamination. In 2015, two old artillery shells suspected of containing mustard gas appeared at a Delaware seafood processing plant. In 2010, clam fishermen working off the New York coastline dredged up two munition shells containing mustard gas, severely sickening the crew.

Only this month, two unexploded munitions washed up on a North Carolina beach — reportedly the third time this has happened this year.

“There’s a concern in some of these places that intact shells may in fact be time bombs in the sense that they’re well contained but eventually they will corrode, and we don’t know what will happen to them,” said Lenny Siegel, executive director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight and an expert in military cleanups. “That would involve a site-specific evaluation.”

Advocates Seek Further Investigation

Beyond ocean dumping, experts point to a lack of action concerning munitions dumped in bodies of water — ponds, lakes, rivers and estuaries — within the continental US, from activities like shore-based gunnery practice, research activities and ship and aerial bombardment. A combination of high cleanup costs and lack of adequate oversight explain why the DoD has failed to remediate these sites, said Steve Pollack, an Illinois licensed attorney who co-authored the CDC report published earlier this year. “It costs money from its budget to assess and retrieve munitions,” he said, arguing that the DoD has been historically reluctant to funnel adequate funds into environmental cleanup programs.

Archival picture of a ship loaded with munitions, awaiting scuttling out to sea. (Photo: Courtesy of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions / National Archives)

In the report, Pollack pinpoints some known mainland underwater dump sites, including a number within the Great Lakes, which have long been used to dispose of conventional and radiological wastes. Lead contamination from artillery fired from an FBI firing range into Lake Michigan threatens municipal drinking water in the area, the report finds. Meanwhile, approximately 300,000 munitions fired from the Erie Army Depot cover some 8,000 acres at the bottom of Lake Erie.

Within the DoD’s Formerly Used Defense Sites program — tasked with cleaning up former DoD properties — there are potentially more than 400 sites containing underwater munitions totaling more than 10 million acres, according to an internal 2010 white paper. The US Navy and US Marine Corps identified an additional 33 sites containing underwater munitions.

“We, the public, learn of existing sites once someone comes in contact with dangerous munitions,” said Pollack. He added that the public should be concerned about the contaminants that make up unexploded munitions, “especially because the Great Lakes are the source of fresh drinking water for all the people around them.”

Then there’s the potential toxicological impact from leaking munitions on the surrounding ecosystems. According to the DoD, research from the two Hawaiian dump sites indicates that the munitions “were not destroying habitat,” and have become an “integral part of the environment.” But published research coming out of Hawaii paints a more nuanced picture. One study conducted at the HUMMA site shows that mustard agent remains in the deep-marine environment for decades after munitions disposal.

Other studies corroborate these findings. Take the island of Vieques, in Puerto Rico. The waters around Vieques are littered with munitions. Some fish and shellfish from certain reefs surrounding the island contain elevated levels of metals like arsenic and selenium, while HMX and trace levels of RDX explosive compounds were found in fiddler crabs, according to a recent report. Also, tests conducted on cod caught in the Baltic Sea suggests a link between chemical weapon dump sites and an increased likelihood of disease in the fish. And white phosphorus, which is found in many incendiary devices routinely dumped to sea, has been reported in many coastal areas around the world.

This interactive map put together by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies shows chemical weapon dumps sites worldwide.

“It’s highly improbable that these sites won’t have an impact,” said Terrance Long, who added that toxic emissions from leaking munitions are one potential factor determining why whales and dolphins are being killed en masse in otherwise inexplicable circumstances. Plus, the seismic testing of the ocean floor conducted during oil and gas exploration has the potential to trigger abandoned explosives — another reason to clear the seas of abandoned ordnances, he said.

“All we’ve shown is that we have a problem and that we have to further investigate it,” Long said, about the research the DoD has conducted over the past decade. “You either believe that the underwater munitions can actually have an impact on the ocean, or you believe they don’t, just like climate change. But it’s about now getting to the table to have the discussion that needs to happen.”

Copyright, Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

More than 60 years of Dumped Weapons in our Ocean are Destorying Global Fish Stocks

LSH Ship retrofitted for dumping Chemical, Conventional and Radiological Weapons regularly dumped weapons off Nova Scotia/Newfoundland

The global depletion of fish stock can be traced to the dumping of chemical weapons in the English Channel in the 1920’s followed by the destruction of the oyster indurstry to the recent fish kills off Nova Scotia. An earlier Helsinki Commission report on sea dumped chemical weapons, stated that it expected in 2005 chemical releases from these weapons will begin to meet one-another in our ocean.

The Global Community, including news media, international leaders, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the United Nations has taken the position: “Out of Sight Out of Mind”, a position that is the “catalyst” for the continued destruction of our fish stocks and ocean. The OPCW insists that chemical weapons and their breakdown products hydrolyze in water, yet we detect them in our chemical weapons programs. According to one expert, Courtney Green on IDUM’s International Technology Advisory Board (ITAB), who carried out dumping operations in the North Sea for the British Army and wrote his master thesis on the dumping stated, that all the munitions are to be gone now! The reality is that underwater weapons are a point source emitter of pollution that will persist in the marine environment as a human carcinogen for thousands of years.

My recent visit to Digby, Nova Scotia on Friday 30 Jan 2016 revealed some findings that was contrary to what was being reported in the media. One fact, that stood out that CBC was reporting there were no more fish kills from a DFO News Conference earlier in the day but during our visit later in the day we were still finding dying fish the shallows.

We found dead crabs, starfish, and hairren earing rring some fish bleeding from the eyes and most of their stomach were empty. We were provided a video by local fishermen from earlier in the day when the seagull weren’t eating the dead fish on shore and were picking the fish up but then dropping them rather then consuming the fish.

DFO and the public needs to understand the the munitions aren’t going anywhere soon…other than into our Food Chain.

Bomb Hunters of the Baltic

Mapping munition dump sites in the Baltic Sea

An international team of scientists working on the multi-year research project ‘Towards the Monitoring of Dumped Munitions Threat’ (MODUM), supported by NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme.

USS Akutan dumped 3000 tons of Mustard Gas Bombs at the BP Deepwater Horizon Well

Deepwater Horion Drills in a Documented Sea Dump Weapons Site

I hope everyone will take a few minutes to watch the short film clip below and SHARE with your friends and peers. Sea Dumped Weapons are the Greatest Threat to our Seas and Oceans. Chemical plums drift freely in our waters as Silent Killers destroying our global fish stocks. Sea Dumped Weapons, both Chemical and Conventional can be recovered globally, and reused as a Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Public.



Conventional munitions have been recovered in the past and used as a terrorist weapons causing death. Sea dumped weapons have killed people visiting the beach and fishermen. The chemical plums are the Silent Killers that are destroying our seas and oceans and will continue to until the waters are a chemical pool. Our Governments, Leaders and the United Nations need to do more to stop this catastrophic event. We need a Global Treaty on all underwater weapons that addresses human health and the environment. We can clean the weapons up, if the people allow the experts to address the munitions on risk and not politics.

Warmer water will bring more chemical releases from underwater weapons sites

IDUM Chair Visits Digby, Nova Scotia 30 December 2016

Munitions become time-expired over time, obsolete, damaged or surplus that requires disposal actions. The seas and ocean has become a major garbage dump for underwater weapons, leaving a windfall (saving) for militaries to save money rather than paying for the disposal of their waste.

The first UK recorded dumping of chemical weapons took place in the English Channel in 1925. There are 1700 underwater weapons sites today in the OSPAR Commission “Protected Area” for the North East Atlantic.

The 1945 Potsdam Agreement signed by the Allied Leaders following WWII lead to global dumping of chemical and conventional weapons up until the 1970’s by “most countries” of the world.

In 1996 the Helsinki Commission stated that in 2005 Chemical Release from underwater munitions sites will begin to meet one-another until they become a worldwide concern.

In 2004 the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommened to the Canadian Government to Call on the United Nations for an urgent conference on sea dumped weapons. The Government of Canada never followed its own Senate recommendation to call on the UN. There are more than 3000 sites on the east coast of Canada including in the Bay of Fundy.

I recently visited Digby, Nova Scotia to see the devasation for myself. What I saw made me sick! We are running out of time to stop the devastation on our seas and ocean from sea dumped chemical and conventional weapons.

Chemical Releases (Silent Killers) from Underwater Weapons in our seas and ocean will destory our global fish stocks.

Please SHARE, I need your help to spread the word!

Massive Amount of Heavy Metals & Highly Toxic Compounds the Navy introduces into the Environment will not be Cleaned up or help those suffering

Hard to believe that I am trying to get a treaty to clean up underwater munitions only to find that the US is still dumping munitions. I hope you enjoy the news article below.

US Navy forces engage in maneuver training in the Philippine Sea, November 28, 2013. The massive amount of heavy metals and highly toxic compounds the Navy introduces into the environment will not be cleaned up by the Navy, nor will the Navy contribute to medical tests for people whose health may suffer. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman / US Navy)

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The US Navy has been conducting war-game exercises in US waters for decades, and in the process, it has left behind tons of bombs, heavy metals, missiles, sonar buoys, high explosives and depleted uranium munitions that are extremely harmful to both humans and marine life.

Truthout recently reported that the Navy has admitted to releasing chemicals into the oceans that are known to injure infants’ brains, as well as having left large amounts of depleted uranium in US coastal waters. Now, the Navy’s own documents reveal that it also plans to use 20,000 tons of heavy metals, plastics and other highly toxic compounds over the next two decades in the oceans where it conducts its war games.

According to the Navy’s 2015 Northwest Training and Testing environmental impact statement (EIS), in the thousands of warfare “testing and training events” it conducts each year, 200,000 “stressors” from the use of missiles, torpedoes, guns and other explosive firings in US waters happen biennially. These “stressors,” along with drones, vessels, aircraft, shells, batteries, electronic components and anti-corrosion compounds that coat external metal surfaces are the vehicles by which the Navy will be introducing heavy metals and highly toxic compounds into the environment.

Just some of the dangerous compounds the Navy will be injecting into the environment during their exercises are: ammonium perchlorate, picric acid, nitrobenzene, lithium from sonobuoy batteries, lead, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, copper, nickel, tungsten, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, trinitrotoluene (TNT), RDX [Royal Demolition eXplosive] and HMX [High Melting eXplosive], among many others.

“None of these belong in the ocean’s food web, upon which we all depend,” Karen Sullivan, a retired endangered species biologist who cofounded West Coast Action Alliance, which acts as a watchdog of Naval activities in the Pacific Northwest, told Truthout. “Nor will the Navy be willing to clean it up, or even contribute to medical tests for people whose health may suffer.”

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

A worrying example of that fact: In August of this year, a lawmaker in Pennsylvania urged 70,000 residents across three counties whose drinking water was contaminated by the Navy to sue them, just to get funding to pay for blood tests to see how sick they had become.

Other examples of US citizens being treated as collateral damage abound. Just this October, the BBC reported on an Air Force Base leaking toxic chemicals into the sewer system, and the port of San Diego filed a federal lawsuit against the Navy for injecting an underground plume of toxic chemicals that threatens to contaminate the entire bay.

But stories like these are only the tip of an impending iceberg.

Experts Truthout spoke with warn that if the Navy gets its way, the next 20 years will see them causing far more environmental degradation and destruction up and down US coastal areas by way of widespread chemical and toxic contamination.

Insidious Contamination

The Navy is, like all the other branches of the US military, ridiculously well-funded. Recent history shows that US military spending dwarfs the rest of the planet’s military spending.

“For the last half-century, US military spending has purchased the annihilation of millions throughout Southeast Asia, the Arab world, and Central Asia,” Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist and winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson prize for her work on depleted uranium (DU) and heavy metal contamination, told Truthout. “Accompanying that human annihilation has been environmental devastation and birth defects, from Vietnam to Iraq.”

Her strong words are backed by clear, cold facts that come from even mainstream media sources in the US, like Newsweek magazine, which in a 2014 article titled “The US Department of Defense Is One of the World’s Biggest Polluters” stated:

The US Department of Defence [sic] is one of the world’s worst polluters. Its footprint dwarfs that of any corporation: 4,127 installations spread across 19 million acres of American soil. Maureen Sullivan, who heads the Pentagon’s environmental programs, says her office contends with 39,000 contaminated sites.

Even as far back as 1990, the US Department of Defense had already admitted to creating more than 14,000 suspected contamination sites across the planet.

The US Safe Drinking Water Act defines “contaminant” as: ” … any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substance or matter in water. Drinking water may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. Some contaminants may be harmful if consumed at certain levels in drinking water. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.”

Thus, contamination being a matter of scale, the government creates a “not-to-exceed” level based on what it knows about each contaminant, in order to minimize human exposure to each item on its massive list of contaminants.

However, the contamination guidelines don’t account for the kind of pollution perpetrated by the US Navy.

“What do you do when it’s massive quantities of contaminants in the ocean, and not your drinking water?” asked Sullivan, who worked at the US Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 15 years and is an expert in the bureaucratic procedures the Navy is supposed to be following.

She pointed out how “contamination,” or water pollution, is defined as “environmental degradation that occurs when pollutants are directly or indirectly discharged into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds.”

On that point she said, “None of the dangerous compounds being dumped into our waters by the Navy have ever been treated or removed, which leads to hearing this false choice: The cost of cleanup or removal would be exorbitant. Therefore, we should continue dumping as always, in perpetuity.”

Navy spokesperson Sheila Murray told Truthout that depleted uranium on the seafloor was no more harmful than any other metal, a statement that flies in the face of numerous scientific studies that have proven otherwise. Sullivan believes that, by making that statement, the Navy “has disavowed responsibility for all of this toxic ocean pollution.”

Savabieasfahani said that while the Navy may be content to add depleted uranium to the environment that already has high levels of man-made pollutants, we should not share its complacency.

“A cluster of worsening environmental phenomena go hand-in-hand with that accumulation of pollutants,” she told Truthout. “Global warming, mass extinctions, ecosystem collapse, food-web modification, physical and biological changes in organisms, endocrine disruption, and a pandemic of neurodevelopmental disorders in children accompany those rising background pollution levels. Peer-reviewed research is already showing steep declines in the biodiversity of ecosystems.”

How Much Contamination?

According to Sullivan, who studied the EIS, the Navy plans to introduce 20,000 tons of contaminants into the environment, which is the equivalent of dumping a load of toxins the size of a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier scattered throughout the seas and sounds of coastal Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

As staggering as that amount is, it does not even include contaminants that have been released over the last six decades of Naval exercises in oceans around the globe (the plans mentioned in these documents are limited to Pacific Northwest waters).

The aforementioned list of toxic compounds the Navy has, is and is planning to release into the environment via its exercises are documented in EPA Superfund site lists as known hazards and all of them are highly toxic at both acute and chronic levels.

For example, perchlorates are highly soluble in water and according to the EPA, “generally have high mobility in soils.” They have been found in breast milk, target the thyroid gland and affect children and fetuses more than they affect adults.

Lithium causes behavioral changes that, in large animals and humans, can be fatal. Ingestion of merely one to two grams of picric acid would cause severe poisoning. TNT remains active underwater, can bioaccumulate in fish, including salmon, and can cause developmental and physiological problems, according to scientific studies. HMX and RDX explosives are both well documented to be extremely toxic and dangerous.

Sullivan says all of this raises questions about why there are no regulations preventing the creation of Superfund sites (polluted locations that require intensive clean-up) in the ocean. “We depend on salmon, yet the Navy is creating massive ecosystem-wide pollution right under our noses,” Sullivan said. “How can they not see that it will be generations from now who reap the bitter harvest?”

Savabieasfahani agreed and took it a step further, issuing a dire warning.

“Toxic metals, such as lead and uranium, are biomagnified,” she explained.”‘Biomagnification’ means that toxins get more concentrated in an organism which ingests plants or animals containing that toxin. For example, contaminated fish can pass on large doses of toxin to their human consumers.”

The 20,000 tons of contaminants the Navy plans to release into the ocean in the coming years do not include the additional 4.7 to 14 tons of “metals with potential toxicity” that will be “released” annually in the inland waters of both Puget Sound and Hood Canal, according to Naval documents. Given that those numbers are for one year only, in 20 years, between 94 and 280 tons of heavy metals will be released inland (in addition to what will be released in the open ocean).

It is also worth noting that two actual Superfund sites along Washington’s inland shorelines are both on Naval property.

“In addition to the toxic contaminants deliberately dumped, what happens to their land-based toxic brews when torrential rains like we had in October overwhelm storm water runoff systems?” Sullivan asked, then provided the answer. “They end up in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.”

Devils in the Details

Naval documentation also reveals that over the next 20 years, the weights of the various contaminants include 6,739 tons of unrecoverable sonobuoys (including their animal-entangling parachutes and batteries which leach lithium for 55 years), and 396 tons of small-caliber rounds, the latter comprising only 2 percent of the total weight of “expended materials.”

The Navy’s flares, which weigh between 12 and 30 pounds apiece, are used 824 times annually, adding up to 16,480 flares weighing between 200,000 and 500,000 pounds over 20 years. The Navy admits that the flares leave toxic residues whenever they are used, saying, “Solid flare and pyrotechnic residues may contain, depending on their purpose and color, an average weight of up to 0.85 pounds of aluminum, magnesium, zinc, strontium, barium, cadmium, nickel, and perchlorates.”

Meaning, at a minimum, seven tons of toxic pyrotechnic residues are to be introduced into Pacific Northwest waters in the next 20 years.

Looking at explosives for training alone, the Navy plans to use 29,024 pounds annually, amounting to 290 tons over the next two decades.

Another issue is unexploded ordnance, or, as it’s commonly known, “duds.”

At current Navy rates for duds only, we would see an additional nine tons of dangerous residual explosive material fired into Pacific Northwest waters every 20 years, sitting on the ocean floor, leaching dangerous toxics.

Moreover, not all contaminants immediately sink and bind to or get encapsulated by sediments. Some materials can be transported by ocean currents. Because the Navy’s EIS uses ocean dispersal and chemical degradation as its rationale for claiming no adverse impacts on species or habitats — anywhere, ever — it should be noted that the expended material from local warfare exercises may not tell the whole story. In other words, perhaps all of the contaminants in question should be added together to get an idea of the full impact.

For example, every other year, according to the Navy, they are authorized to dump up to 352,000 pounds of expended military materials, by way of them being shot, dropped and exploded, into the Gulf of Alaska. This includes up to 10,500 pounds of hazardous materials, such as cyanide, chromium, lead, tungsten, nickel, cadmium, barium chromate, chlorides, phosphorus, titanium compounds, lead oxide, potassium perchlorate, lead chromate, ammonium perchlorate, fulminate of mercury and lead azide. The Navy is dumping much of it into Essential Fish Habitat in the Gulf of Alaska at peak times of fishery and marine mammal presence, impacting and harming a multitude of species. They are also carrying out a similar dumping process in Pacific Northwest waters.

Naval Obfuscation

In the Navy’s 2015 Northwest Training and Testing EIS, it quotes several studies, saying, “contamination of the marine environment by munitions constituents is not well documented.” This is often the Navy’s claim, used to show its actions are not deleterious to the environment, when “not well documented” actually means that it has not looked for or measured its impacts on the environment. Regardless, the need for more data does not mean it is scientifically sound to assume there has been no damage.

In the section of the 2015 EIS on Cumulative Impacts, the Navy says, “Long-term exposure to pollutants poses potential risks to the health of marine mammals, although for the most part, the impacts are just starting to be understood.” The impacts include ” … organ anomalies and impaired reproduction and immune function.” There are multiple other examples of such doublespeak within the Navy’s own documents.

Another example is in the EIS section on Sediments and Water Quality, where the Navy claims that “slow but significant removal” of two types of explosive material (RDX and HMX) happens through a chemical reaction whose speed is dictated by the pH [acidity] of seawater. Adequate proof is not provided by the Navy, yet risks to human health from these toxins has been extremely well documented.

It could be argued that the Navy’s gross negligence of its environmental impacts amounts to a federal agency passing off wishful thinking as science. The toxic legacy of this negligence will be passed down to generations far beyond our own.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon.

Dahr Jamail is the author of the book, The End of Ice, forthcoming from The New Press. He lives and works in Washington State.

Chair of International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM) meets Justin Trudeau at Opening of Veterans Affairs Office in Sydney

I got up out of bed today wondering how I would continue to create awareness on the devastation, that more than 60 years of sea dumping of weapons are having on our human health and depleting fish stocks. Thousands of underwater munitions sites off Nova Scotia, sites in the St Laurence River, Great Lakes, West Coast of Canada, 1700 sites in the North Sea, sites on the Great Barrier Reef, and the list goes on.

In our CHEMSEA (Search and Assessment for Chemical Weapons), EU Funded Program, we learned that in munitions sites the Cod fish has tumors, stress on their kidneys and livers, and extra fish diseases.  Most alarming to me, was the impact on the juvenile fish ability to reproduce that could have a major impact on the global decline of fish stocks.  We also found that arsenic from the mustard gas is spreading across the Baltic Sea Seafloor.

Sea dumped chemical and conventional munitions, can also be easily recovered and reused on the public as a terror weapons. This was demonstrated with presentations at a side event at Organsaition for the Prohibition of Chemical (OPCW) HQ in cooperation with IDUM, Lithuanian Ambassador, Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister and a Dutch Munitions Expert.

Last month, I received a request for assistance in The Hague, The Netherlands from an Ontario family in Canada, who’s child picked up a bomb on a beach near Halifax and put it in their car driving it more than 1000 kilometers from Nova Scotia to Ontario, putting themselves and the public at risk.  After receiving the request, I informed the family to get away from the bomb and contact the Police to request EOD assistances.

I am aware of five Canadians killed in Canada and five Americans killed in the US from sea dumped munitions. In US and Baltic waters chemical weapons have burn people, including children, and where munitions and lumps of mustard gas are regularly caught in nets along with fish for humans consumption.  Most recently, at the 8th Meeting of the Parties to ASCOBANS, they adopted Resolution: Addressing the Threats from Underwater Munitions, identifying the threat from both conventional and chemical underwater munitions.

Underwater Chemical and Conventional Weapons are:

Human Health Threat

Environmental Threat

Energetic (explode) Threat

Recover and Reuse Threat

In 2004, First Nations and I attended, Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Hearings in Ottawa, as an expert witness and People impacted by underwater weapons. The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended:

•      Must be greater federal government involvement by departments and agencies other than Department of National Defense (DND)

•     Must be a substantial, long-term, financial and scientific commitment by federal government

•     Government of Canada should call on the United Nations to organize a conference with several other coastal countries on this serious issue.

The Senate Committee Recommendation are vault today for the Government of Canada to implement. More importantly, this is an opportunity for a Country/Leader to become a champion on at the United Nations on underwater munitions.

If these Silent Killers are left unchecked in our waters, the chemical releases from them will eventually meet one another destroying fish stocks and our ocean.  There isn’t one treaty, convention or protocol that addresses chemical, conventional or radiological underwater weapons.  We need an urgent United Nations conference to discuss policy, science, technology and potential responses. Sea dumped munitions effects coastal and landlocked countries that consume fish, thereby being a multilateral concern. We need constructive engagement at the United Nations, rather than disengagement to develop solutions, partnership, and create greater international cooperation.

But most of all we need an international Leader like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada to understand our concerns to “Call on the United Nations” for a conference on underwater munitions.

By the end of the day, I felt like the tides may be changing after meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  We did not discuss underwater munitions, I only had an opportunity for a photo and to shake hands. Hopefully, there is an opportunity in the future to engage his Government to discuss a global underwater munitions conference.

Terrance P. Long, Chair, International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM) & International Technology Advisory (ITAB) on Sea Dumped Weapons (SDW’s), The Hague, The Netherlands