WARNING: Handle With Care!

Our oceans are home to the discarded munitions of wars past!

In 1987, hundreds of dead dolphins washed up onto the shores of Virginia and New Jersey. Following an investigation, one marine-mammal expert stated that the dolphins showed wounds that resembled chemical burns. It is now believed that these dolphins were exposed to chemical weapons that had been discarded in the ocean. Since World War I, the oceans have been the dumping ground of enormous quantities of captured, damaged, and obsolete chemical, biological, conventional and radiological munitions.

In many cases, these munitions are resting quietly at the bottom of our oceans. However, in other places, these discarded munitions are causing a myriad of problems. There are risks to both humans and marine ecosystems. Let’s first take a look at the some of the potential risks to humans – explosive or chemically dangerous munitions washing up on beaches, munitions being disturbed/activated by fishing vessels, and the leakage of deadly chemicals into the water contaminating the water and the fish that digest these toxins. As the casings on some of these munitions erode and others detonate, poisonous materials are entering the food chain via plankton.

So, what is being done? In 2004, a Canadian by the name of Terrence Long founded a non-profit organization called the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM). Today, the IDUM is an internationally recognized body where all stakeholders (diplomats, government departments including external affairs, environmental protection and fishery departments, industry, fishermen, salvage divers, oil and gas, militaries and others) can come together in an open and transparent forum to discuss underwater munitions, seek solutions, and promote international teamwork on their issues related to underwater munitions.

In many cases, these munitions are resting quietly at the bottom of our oceans. However, in other places, these discarded munitions are causing a myriad of problems. There are risks to both humans and marine ecosystems. Let’s first take a look at the some of the potential risks to humans – explosive or chemically dangerous munitions washing up on beaches, munitions being disturbed/activated by fishing vessels, and the leakage of deadly chemicals into the water contaminating the water and the fish that digest these toxins. As the casings on some of these munitions erode and others detonate, poisonous materials are entering the food chain via plankton.

So, what is being done? In 2004, a Canadian by the name of Terrence Long founded a non-profit organization called the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM). Today, the IDUM is an internationally recognized body where all stakeholders (diplomats, government departments including external affairs, environmental protection and fishery departments, industry, fishermen, salvage divers, oil and gas, militaries and others) can come together in an open and transparent forum to discuss underwater munitions, seek solutions, and promote international teamwork on their issues related to underwater munitions.

In most cases, once an underwater munition has been removed, the problem is removed. That being said, the removal of these munitions can be incredibly dangerous and must be conducted by specialized teams trained in the handling of explosives and hazardous materials. In 2013, tourists visiting the Assateague Island National Seashore, a U.S. National Park on the Maryland coast discovered an unexploded ordnance on the beach. Fortunately they reported the find and the beach was closed while an Army bomb squad exploded the World War II-era munitions.

Between 1941 and 2003, the U.S. Navy occupied about 2/3rds of an Island in Puerto Rico called Vieques. The land was used both as a naval ammunition depot and for live training exercises. Operations included not only the storage and processing of supplies, but also the disposal of wastes and munitions of all types. As of 2004, the EPA had listed the presence of contaminants, such as mercury, lead, copper, magnesium, lithium, napalm, and depleted uranium, as well as unexploded ordnance and remnants of exploded ordnance.

As of 2014, the Navy has spent about $220 million since 2003, to investigate and clean contaminated lands on Vieques. For the remainder of Fiscal Year 2015 Congress appropriated $17 million for the cleanup of Vieques. While it is fantastic that there is forward momentum on the clean-up up this particular area, the effects are showing themselves in many very visible ways. The cancer rate in Vieques is 27% higher than mainland Puerto Rico and the infant mortality rate is much higher than other areas in Puerto Rico. These staggering numbers have turned Vieques into the poster child example of this issue. Unfortunately, the subject of underwater munitions isn’t sexy and doesn’t get the attention that is needs and deserves.

Things YOU can do to make a difference! Educate yourself on this issue, research where you live and locations you make be visiting, talk to others about this issue so more people know, write to your government representatives to let them know you care about this issue, and if possible, make a donation to organizations like the IDUM so they can advocate for all of us. Underwater munitions might be “out of sight” but they have the capacity to make a huge impact on your health and the health of our future generations. More

Thanks to the Marine & Oceanic Sustainability Foundation (MOSF) for collaborating with IDUM and who wrote and posted this blog.

 

 

International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions Highlighting Sea-Dumped Chemical Weapons

International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions

Deadly Depths

Underwater munitions pollute the marine environment with toxic chemicals. We have learned that there is a “need to clean” both chemical and conventional weapons based on potential human health impacts, as well as environmental implications through depleting fish stocks (CHEMSEA Findings Report 2013, Search and Assessment of Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons and Porter, JW, Barton J and Torres 2011, Ecological, Radiological and Toxicological Effects of Naval Bombardment on Coral Reefs of Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico).

Terrence Long

Underwater Munitions are “Point Source Emitters of Pollution”. This means that in most cases, if we remove the source: we remove the problem. Off-the-shelf-technology developed by private sector, oil and gas industry, and military's unmanned systems programs, already exists to detect, map, recover and dispose of underwater munitions and the toxic waste they create. The International Dialogues on Underwater Munitions (IDUM's) mission is to promote the creation of an internationally binding treaty on all classes (biological, chemical, conventional, and radiological) of underwater munitions, to lead to the cleanup of our Oceans worldwide. IDUM hosts and attends international forums to facilitate collaboration with international leaders and organizations to better understand the socio-economic impact on both human health and environment from years of decaying underwater munitions. IDUM cooperates with researchers, industry, and government to foster collaborative solutions that further the clean-up of our oceans. We believe through international diplomacy via national and international programs, dialogue, conferences, workshops, committees, senate hearings, and commissions, we can come together globally to clean our One Ocea

IDUM is considered the international group of experts in Policy, Science, Technology and Responses to Underwater Munitions. We have been extremely effective in furthering international discussion, and creating a united appeal to international governments, as well as creating an International Technology Advisory Board on Sea Dumped Munitions. In support of our efforts, IDUM has been recognized in proceedings for Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Third Review Conference of State Parties, 2014 Noble Peace Prize winner and United Nations (Secretary General Report Sixty-eight session on Sustainable development) for our contributions within the Resolution on sea dumped chemical munitions.

IDUM takes action:

IDUM mobilizes working groups for policy science and technology of sea dumped munitions, and has hosted five (5) international dialogues. We have participated as an observer for Helsinki Commission Heads of Delegations for Protection of the Baltic Sea, as well as provided consultations within HELCOM MUNI Ad Hoc Working Groups on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons. IDUM has also been a “Special Invited Guest” of the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the North-East Atlantic Oceans, and participates as Co- Directors for CHEMSEA – Search and Assessment of Chemical Weapons, Baltic Sea and NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) – MODUM Project.

IDUM is on the Scientific Committee Polish Naval Academy for Marine Security Yearbook and board of directors for International Centre for Chemical Safety and Security (ICCSS). Most recently, IDUM has been invited to centralize our cooperation with global peace and security organizations at The Hague. Our Chairman, Mr. T. P. Long, will manage the office in The Hague and cooperate with the international community of The Hague (including States Parties and the United Nations) to represent your concerns in an open and transparent process.

Mission Statement

The International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM) is a non-governmental organization/Society founded in 2004 by Mr. Terrence P. Long following his appearance at a Canadian Senate Hearing with the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The IDUM's mission is to promote the creation of an internationally binding treaty on all classes (biological, chemical, conventional, and radiological) of underwater munitions. This treaty would encourage countries to collaborate on underwater munitions policy, research, science, and responses including environmentally-friendly remediation in affected regions. The IDUM is an internationally recognized body where all stakeholders (diplomats, government departments including external affairs, environmental protection and fishery departments, industry, fishermen, salvage divers, oil and gas, militaries and others) can come together in an open and transparent forum to discuss underwater munitions, seek solutions, and promote international teamwork on their issues related to underwater munitions. The IDUM promotes constructive engagement with all stakeholders rather than disengagement so that we may learn from one another's situation and determine how we can best respond in the future with everyone's considerations. What we have learned is that off-the-shelf-technology, developed by the oil and gas industry and military's unmanned systems programs, does exist to address underwater munitions sites. And there is a “Need to clean” based on the potential human health and environmental impact on our health care systems and fish stocks. Underwater munitions in some form or another will continue to pollute the marine environment over time. It’s just a question of “When”. Underwater Munitions are “Point Source Emitters of Pollution”. In most cases, remove the source and you remove the problem.

Chairman's Message

“The IDUM is collaborating with international leaders and organizations to better understand the socio-economic impact on both human health and environment from years of decaying underwater munitions. The organization is facilitating this through international diplomacy via national and international programs, dialogues, conferences, workshops, committees, senate hearings, and international commissions. Most notable are the international efforts of the Government of Lithuania that resulted in the unanimous passing of the United Nations Resolution on Sea Dumped Chemical Weapons in December 2010 at the United Nations. Internationally, we must organize and continue our work together to collect, process, and provide information on underwater munitions to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Any tangible approach would require a multilateral response from all stakeholders including institutional capacity-building and the creation of an International Donor Trust Fund.” Visit the IDUM Website