2012 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <LSiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2012 09:59:27 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] MUNITIONS: "The Need To Establish Threat Mitigation Protocols..."
Submitted by James Barton jamesbarton@uwuxo.com

The Need To Establish Threat Mitigation Protocols For Offshore Natural Resource Development In Waters Suspected to Contain Unexploded Munitions

By James Barton
April 24, 2012

Responsible development of offshore natural resources in waters fouled with unexploded munitions can be accomplished, but only if basic threat factors are weighed at the planning stage. We have the technology and superior service providers available to conduct such operations, and given proper guidance and funding, the potential for adverse impacts of these efforts can be greatly minimized.


The eastern seaboard is littered with unexploded munitions from decades of industrial scale dumping and live fire exercises. Everything in the arsenal has been deposited off our shores. In addition to heavy iron bombs and projectiles, there are "thin cased" chemical weapons, and aluminum bodied one ton bulk containers filled with liquid agent. Residues from once liquid state agent can form a more or less solidified "shoe" at the bottom of individual munitions and bulk containers.

Threat One:

When chemical filled containers are ruptured through the use of high powered seismic technology, these "shoes" are also broken up, making them more susceptible to disbursement across the sea floor. This has already occurred in the Baltic Sea, where Solidified chunks of "blister agent" and "white phosphorous" regularly wash ashore. Beachcombers mistake these for "amber" and pocket them. Once the outer crust is brushed away, they either get a blister agent burn or their pants literally catch on fire.

The Solution:

Conduct archival research to locate the general position of major dump sites. Use more traditional and less destructive forms of wide area assessment such as magnetometer and side scan sonar to pinpoint and investigate whether chemical munitions are present. Chart these locations and avoid the use of seismic testing in these areas.

Threat Two:

Unlike large scale dump sites, individual explosive filled iron bombs and projectiles deposited through live fire exercises can migrate great distances from where they first came in contact with the sea floor. When these come in contact with man-made structures like platforms, cables or pipelines, two things are likely to occur. The first is "friction wear damage". The second is dissimilar metals in the munition and structure combine to advance electrolytic activity, which quickly overwhelms the cathodic protection originally designed for a "clean" seabed, thereby weakening the structure.

The Solution:

In the North Sea where such occurrences are common, inspection of these structures performed using ROV or AUV technologies takes place with greater frequency than in waters where unexploded munitions are not present. They also embrace remediation strategies to remove these items, and have done so successfully on numerous occasions. The costs associated with those efforts are calculated at the very beginning of the planning process.
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