Saturday, January 17, 2009
Is our Baltic sea for peace or for war stupidity?
More than 300,000 tons of weapons were dumped by the Allies between 1945 and 1947. The toxic stockpile includes nearly 65,000 tons(net!) of mustard gas, nerve agent sarin and the notorious death camp gas, Zyklon B.
Environmental aspects and the issue of protection of the sea were completely ignored at that time.
1. The Bornholm site is located in the western Baltic, east of the island of Bornholm. Over 35.000 tons were dumped in water depths ranging between 70 and 120 m. The CW contained an estimated 13.000 tons of toxic agents. Most CW was thrown over board packed in crates or containers, but some ships were also sunk.
2. The Gotland Deep site is located in the central Baltic. At least 2.000 tons of CW was dumped here (some sources mention a total of 40.000 tons). There are strong indications that part of the conventional and chemical munition was thrown overboard during transport to the Baltic dump sites; how many tons were thus dumped is not known. Most likely it is mainly this ammunition that has been washing ashore on the beaches of Denmark and Poland.
3. The Måseskär site is located in the eastern Skagerrak, 25 km off the Swedish coast. At least 8 ships were sunk here in a water depths ranging between 180-200 m. According to reports roughly 30.000 tons of toxic agents were dumped.
Some degradation products of chemical warfare agents are even more persistent and several times more toxic than their original substance (e.g. mustard gas and lewisite).
It is important to note that, in addition to the dumping of tens of thousands of tons of chemical munitions into the Baltic sea, many more tens of thousands of tons of conventional explosives were also disposed of in this manner, sometimes in the same shipments or locatit is clear that the munitions are subject to corrosion effects rendering them fragile or even resulting in leakage of CW agents. There is also good evidence that certain types of explosive can become extremely unstable with the passage of time.
Public concern over the potential environmental impacts inherent in sea-dumped CW is genuine. Too often opinion of people populated Baltic shores have been ignored in order to provide support for unrelated strategic or economic considerations.
Posted by Rustam Vasiliev