He also mentioned that the seas were often so rough that they did "dump and run" as soon as they were out of sight of land. It was supposed to go into the deepest sections of the Irish Sea, but he claims a lot of it was closer to Scotland.
It was the mustard gas, and other nasties that he wouldn't talk about, that worried him right up until he passed away in his eighties. They knew it wasn't the right thing to do, but at that time you followed orders and did as little as possible until you got demobbed.
Oh no need for that. Grab a local news paper, check the crime section. 'modern day guys' are not so smart and innocent, are they?
Right now there are thousands of child soldiers around the world doing things much worse than digging trenches. There are also a number of armed conflicts that are currently ongoing (although they aren't anywhere near the scale of something like WWII).
See here for some technical comment on the FDHS: http://guests.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/4158/cw-destructio...
I heard similar stories from him, including one where a some of the 'goods' ignited whilst still on the barge and a couple of very brave men dumped the burning cases to sage the barge. Likewise, there are things he didn't talk about too.
We're mainly talking mustard gas. Germany did use nerve gases tabun, sarin, and soman . But nerve gases degrade after a period of a few weeks to a few years. I'm not sure what they degrade into, admittedly, and I doubt it's nice.
Mustard gas lasts longer, but is also much less potent. Military use is about 1 tonne for 2.6 square kilometres . So if it were just leaking into the open sea -- even one as small as the Baltic -- it wouldn't be an issue. The problem is really if something re-concentrates it -- currents, or location, or possibly going up the food chain (does that happen?)
So my initial feeling is it's not quite as catastrophic as it sounds. Would love to hear from somebody better-informed, though.
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany_and_weapons_of_mass_de...
2 - http://www.iraqwatch.org/perspectives/rangwala-powell-020503...
Maybe much less potent in killing instantly (ie in combat use), but what about long-term low-dosage exposure?
> possibly going up the food chain (does that happen?)
Bio-accumulation in general is very real thing, and imho the most worrisome aspect of this situation.
As for the hydrolysis product of mustard gas, thiodiethanol, it's not very toxic. The MSDS claims acute toxicity in rates starts around 6.5g/kg. So a human would need to consume ~500g in order to see toxicity.
Also, thiodiethanol is quite reactive itself. It would likely be oxidized to the carboxylic acid. Wouldn't surprise me if bacteria could metabolize it.
This abstract suggests that bacteria are utilizing the thiodiglycol that the mustard gas ends up releasing into the water:
This one suggests that the thiodiglycol is still harmful:
But that it isn't nearly as harmful as the mustard gas.
thirty plus million pounds of assorted weaponary
Also: Belgium waters have been a dumping ground for (mustard?)gas.
If all is spread evenly. But as you said, currents and other factors might cause troubles in a few areas. Maybe is better to disturb them, or break them open and have as much control it much as they can over this issue.
Here's a little map of the area: http://www.wereldoorlog1418.nl/gasoorlog/paardenmarkt.html
EDIT: Then there's the stuff on land. In Belgium they still recuperate between 100 and 200 tons of ammunition per year. Farmers post them by the side of the road for the bomb disposal teams to pick up. A couple of workers in Ypres (yes, that Ypres) died last month unintentionally digging up a WWI bomb.
That was during WWI, when the U.S. Army was targeting Portola Valley, which is now one of the wealthiest zip codes in the nation:
"Camp Fremont troops engage in mobile artillery practice, near what is now Dish Hill. The guns—almost certainly 75mm field guns of British or American manufacture—are aimed toward Foothills Park and Portola Valley, where 75mm shells were unearthed as recently as November 2010... five million rounds of World War I-era ammunition fired in a four-month span on the foothills where the camp conducted its war games..."
That document doesn't say anything about Woodside (where Steve Jobs famously battled with the town) just a tad to the north. But Woodside was settled earlier. Mountain Home Ranch was settled in 1839 and and a local church opened in 1893 -- all of which likely convinced the Army to shift its artillery range to the south...
Somehow I don't think its former life will make it into the glossy marketing brochures. The whole area has been checked with metal detectors though, so I doubt any surprises will show up.
Assume the chemicals have a density of 1 g/cm^3, the same as water, which seems reasonable for organic liquids and such. Then a cubic meter weighs a metric tonne. So 65,000 tonnes is the same as a cube that is 40 meters on a side.
Another visualization: 1/5 of the volume of oil that can be carried by a Very Large Crude Carrier supertanker according to Wolfram Alpha:
EDIT: Without diminishing the potential gravity of the problem, but trying to visualize what 65,000 tonnes looks like, I'm surprised it doesn't look as big as I thought it would.
Well, the volume of chemical weapons it takes to take down an entire city of millions is much much smaller than this.
Or take sea-faring ships, who dump both grey and black water (ie. untreated sewage) into the sea; I understand this is slowly being subject to some regulation. Ships also run with heavy oil which has its own set of issues (mostly sulfur content and NOx); in terms of CO2 emissions shipping is super efficient though.
Some? Some? Talk to a sailor about that one. The coast guard does not screw around with that at least in territorial waters and what exactly can be dumped where is highly regulated.
I wouldn't worry about the untreated sewage, after all, a lot of fish poop in the sea every day. The city I work in has determined its cheaper to pay EPA fines and dump raw sewage right off shore every time it rains, rather than make the substantial civil engineering investments to fix the system. I'd worry more about dish washing detergents and cooking oils and the like, unlike plain old sewage, the environment has very little natural experience with that kind of stuff.
The problem is the subduction zones are very slow -- on the order of 25 meters per 100 years, at most. The waste isn't particularly threatening past 10-20k years.
I still believe in reprocessing as the best solution.
Most people similarly discard household toxins: they know throwing batteries/CFLs/paint/etc in the general-purpose dumpster is not "ok", but for them it's an easy & effective solution. Disastrous for someone/something somewhere sometime, but not for "me, now".
Silent Spring was published in 1962. It brought environmental problems to mainstream Americans. As a result of new awareness the EPA was created.
What seems "obvious" now might not have always been obvious.
Lets not forget there have been over 2,000 (known) nuclear weapons test in the world. 1032 done by the US alone, most in Nevada. It is well known that these tests released massive amounts of radiation that affects human health. Clouds carried the radiation across the United States into the Mid-West and Northeast and deposited it with rain.
> While this is worrying, some scientists argue that most of the containers will in all likelihood remain sealed for decades to come...
"Thus solving the problem once and for all." "But--" "ONCE AND FOR ALL."
Made up numerical example, if you have a lake where the bacteria can literally eat one barrel of crude per month, and 10 barrels at the bottom of the lake, you're in pretty good shape if one breaks open at a time spread over a century, but fairly well screwed if all 10 rust open at the same time at the six month mark.
Hell, sounds like most kick-the-can-down-the-road politicians we have today, regarding a whole slew of issues. It's nice to see how far we've come in 70 years. 8-P
[..] at a depth of 124 meters (406 feet) just kilometers from the French coast.
In fact, I think it deserves to be posted by itself, so I've submitted it as https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7620544
* Dozens of Atomic Warheads Lost In Sea by Superpowers, Study Says: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/07/us/dozens-of-atomic-warhea...
* Missing for 50 years - US nuclear bomb: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8107908.stm
I guess it's time to get used to the thought that "holiday on a beach" will soon mean visiting Croatia.
1. Hang-ups, where the release command was given over target but the ordnance didn't separate. Usually this requires the entire weapon rack ( such as a BDU ) to be ejected using the emergency explosive charges.
2. Trap-weight limits; the old-gen F/A-18s were crippled by this problem, wherein they couldn't recover to ship carrying the ordnance with which they launched. Particularly if they topped-up from a tanker on the return leg this could necessitate dumping unused ordnance.
I think #2 is much less of a problem now with the Super Hornets.
In general, after several decades of toting 2,000 lb Mk 84 bombs, ordnance is returning to smaller sizes due to the concentration of effect possible with precision guidance. 500 lb bombs are commonplace now, and sometimes even smaller. So this should also reduce the frequency of dumping.
Apparently they dumped stuff in the North Sea as well. The dumping locations that are known of are mostly the deeper parts. The Baltic is 459m at maximum depth while the North stacks a chilling 700m.
I think the dumping locations in the North Sea would be easier to find (The North has been mapped fairly comprehensively due to oil and gas exploration) but harder to deal with (it's tough as hell). The Baltic is smaller and surrounded mostly by land, so I'm guessing the Baltic would be hit harder.
Consider, in addition: 1) that the weapons were unstable and rapidly degrading, which meant time was not on anyone's side; 2) a third World War seemed not just possible, but perhaps probable, especially as tensions mounted between the Soviets and the Western allies. Very quickly after WW2, the United States realized it did not have the manpower to repel a Soviet land invasion in Europe; in fact, it was outnumbered and outgunned by a significant margin. So the US and its allies very much perceived themselves to be in a race against the clock.
In retrospect, it's east to wring our hands about how these weapons were disposed of. But there were very few choices available, all of them onerous. Given the choice back then, i.e., "Do I want this stuff in the ocean, in the groundwater, or under Soviet control?" policy makers found the ocean to be the least of three evils.
Of course, the best thing to have done would have been to disassemble the munitions and render their contents chemically inert. The infrastructure, specialized labor force, resources, and time to do this were not on hand.
These bombs and rockets, including their chemical propellants, oxidizers, and payloads, were designed by the world's top rocket scientists, in an era where perhaps a few dozen of those people even existed. Disposing of these things safely and securely would have been a bit like disposing of some alien death ray that turned up in the Arctic permafrost.
Add to this the fact that most of Europe was a bombed-out husk in the aftermath of the war. We're talking entire countries reduced to Third World status. We're talking nonexistent transportation infrastructure. Civil unrest. The threat of riots, uprisings, and invasion on all sides. Factories and assembly plants blown to rubble. Millions of the Continent's best, brightest, and most capable workers annihilated or driven off. Most of the Continent's brain trust being frantically courted by either side of the emerging Cold War battle lines. Total chaos, more or less.
Even getting our hands on enough cement to bury the weapons might have been difficult, given resource and time constraints.
Therefore better to just get rid of the stuff ASAP.
I'm more curious if we think we'll learn from these and in the future try to make better decisions (which hopefully means we'll avoid production in the first place, which means... well, I live in a Disney world sometimes OK?). Sometimes it's depressing how short term the collective memory of humanity seems to be, what with bubbles and crises repeating themselves every couple of generations.
Which is wrecked in the Thames Estuary with 1.4KT of TNT onboard.
* 286 × 2,000 lb (910 kg) high explosive "Blockbuster" bombs
* 4,439 × 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs of various types
* 1,925 × 500 lb (230 kg) bombs
* 2,815 fragmentation bombs and bomb clusters
What does America have to do with this?
America didn't go to war to stop it, so obviously things that happen in the Baltic Sea are the fault of America. Or something, I don't know.
Except the United States has already poisoned their own people with all those nuclear weapons test in Nevada. As I've pointed out in another comment here. (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7620859)