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Canada's forgotten weapons of mass destruction.
January 13, 2003 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Canada's forgotten weapons of mass destruction. Shortly after the end of World War II, the Canadian navy began to dispose of its surplus chemical weapons by dumping them off the shore of Atlantic Canada. Large quantities of chemical agents, including mustard gas, were loaded onto barges and scuttled at undisclosed locations. Over 50 years later, some of these military dumpsites have become lost due to poor record keeping. With increasing offshore oil exploration and a commercially successful shellfish industry, there's a possibility that these forgotten chemical agents could return to the coasts of "Canada's Ocean Playground".
posted by Caffine_Fiend (14 comments total)

 
That sure makes this dive sound even more exciting.
posted by boost ventilator at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2003


...or perhaps this will turn out to be the real Oak Island Tresure!
posted by boost ventilator at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2003


No shit?
posted by LowDog at 11:46 AM on January 13, 2003


Whoda thunkit?
posted by LowDog at 11:48 AM on January 13, 2003


Mustard gas in the ocean? Does that make for any recipe shortcuts?
posted by Dick Paris at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2003


So what do you get when you dissolve a whole lot of mustard gas in a hell of a lot of deep water? Very dilute mustard gas, getting more dilute as time goes on? Just how serious a potential hazard is this?
posted by alumshubby at 12:03 PM on January 13, 2003


Looks like they're actually doing something about it, tho.
mmm....mustard lobster gas...
posted by chandy72 at 12:19 PM on January 13, 2003


I knew Canada is evil.
posted by tolkhan at 12:24 PM on January 13, 2003


Canada's not the only one. The State's dumped alot of similar ordinence of the Maine coast at the conclusion of hostilities. Its always fun to be out boating, whip out the chart, and see a marking indicating that you are on top of "Danger: Unexploded Ordience" or the more mysterious, but probably more dangerous "Naval Dumping Ground. Danger. Do not Disturb."
posted by pjgulliver at 12:28 PM on January 13, 2003


Canada has a warship.
posted by jfuller at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2003


As a Canuck, I find that very, very funny, jfuller. Thanks. :)
posted by five fresh fish at 12:41 PM on January 13, 2003


To answer alumshubby's question, the second link suggests that "...mustard gas is a liquid at room temperature but turns into thick goo in the cold waters of the ocean bottom. It is essentially a stable compound and will retain its viability and reactivity indefinitely. When exposed to sea water, mustard forms a thick outer "crust" over a core of mustard which allows it to be brought to the surface where it can injure unsuspecting fishermen. Studies indicate that mustard gas remains unchanged after storage on land for period exceeding 80 years."

I agree with five fresh fish too. Funny link jfuller.
posted by Caffine_Fiend at 1:02 PM on January 13, 2003


CDC fact sheet on mustard gas; one study's finding of swift chemical breakdown in seawater, although derivative compounds remained; a Mitretek study of Ocean Dumping of Chemical Weapons {source of the "clumps of goo" quote}, which was a common practice until the 1970s: the Allies disposed of many Germany, Italian, and Japanese chemical weapons in the sea, as well as their own, and the US and USSR used their own coastal waters; and a history of chemical weapons disposal, as we learned the dangers of casual dumping. By 1972, the US outlawed most marine dumping, and acceded to the London Convention banning it internationally along with other waste disposal. The Convention has largely been successful at reducing global volumes of waste dumped in the oceans, via a black list of prohibited materials and a grey list of strictly regulated ones; today Japan and South Korea are the primary violators.

It is the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention that has finally allowed energies to be directed at the problem of dumped or incompletely neutralized stocks. Deep vs. shallow water is key to whether there is a real risk.

In other news, Russia is finally implementing its own CWC destruction program, neutralizing the first of 40,000 tons of stored chemical weapons; and a US incinerator still has NIMBY hurdles but should start operations this month.
posted by dhartung at 3:59 PM on January 13, 2003


Mustard gas in the ocean? Does that make for any recipe shortcuts?

mmmmmmmm, Incapacitating
posted by guyincognito at 4:06 PM on January 13, 2003


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