Chemical munitions dumped
in the Baltic Sea are a major problem
of the sea and for the
warfare agents (CWA)
Chemical warfare agents are toxic chemical
compounds whose chemical and physical properties enable their
military use. Their characteristic feature is a lethal or harmful
effect on living organisms (humans, animals and plants).
The possibility of an explosion and spread of lethal chemical
compounds exists regardless of whether or not
munitions have fuses. CWA were often discharged into the sea in
factory packagings – wooden crates.
Burns caused by picked up
chemical munitions happen until today among the Baltic sea
Anna Sosnowska, Chief Inspectorate of
Environment - Poland, shared her
story about her links and commitment with the Baltic Sea region
in the topic of dumped chemical munitions. In this respect, several
stories were told by the participants in the workshop on Added value
of the EUSBSR which took place in January 2013 in Warsaw, Poland.
The event was organised by INTERACT Point Turku.
In 2009 European Council endorsed EU
Strategy for Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). It is implemented
by 8 countries from the Baltic Sea region in cooperation with
neighboring countries (RU, BY). One of the main objectives of the
Strategy focus on the marine environment. Strategy is divided into
thematic areas (eg. hazardous substances), where approximately 100
flagship projects are carried.
Since 2009, the Chief
Inspectorate of Environmental Protection, Poland has been the leader
of the flagship project entitled „Assess the need to
clean up chemical weapons”.
To implement the project in 2010 HELCOM MUNI
group (HELCOM Ad hoc expert group to update and review the
existing information on dumped chemical munitions in the Baltic Sea)
was set up by the Helsinki Commission. Final HELCOM MUNI
report was presented in October 2013 during HELCOM
Ministerial Meeting in Copenhagen. To support another ongoing
scientific efforts to assess the environmental risk related to
dumped chemical munitions, the CHEMSEA project was
involved in the EUSBSR flagship project, as a sub-project. The final
conference of the CHEMSEA project took place in February 2014 where
CHEMSEA Findings were published.
Because a number of planned and ongoing initiatives
concerning dumped munitions appear in the Baltic Sea Area and there
is a need for a cluster project to minimize redundancy between such
them, the Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection extended
the previous project into a cluster project: UMBRELLA
- Underwater Munitions Baltic REmediation
The UMBRELLA project’s task is to provide
possibilities for cooperation and a platform for exchange of
knowledge between the representatives of the Baltic Sea countries
related with Dumped Chemical Weapons and other stakeholders from the
world. To gain the effect of synergy, projects and initiatives on
dumped chemical munitions in the Baltic Sea are focused under the
How to get involved ?
It is assumed that there are about 40 000 tons
of chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic Sea, but it is possible
that this number is higher. The issue of the dumped chemical
weapons (DCW) in the Baltic Sea is not well examined yet and there
are still areas which should be scrutinised to give better view of
the problem, e.g.:
there are still areas in the Baltic Sea which need to be confirmed
if they are dumpsites and what is the amount of dumped agents;
the influence of DCW on the environment – e.g. on fish, or benthic
biota, the influence on human health via consumed seafood (ex.
causing cancer) or direct exposure;
the need to clean up contaminated wrecks and chemical weapons where
it is required to protect sensitive marine ecosystems (taking into
account completed and ongoing work carried out by HELCOM);