What's the Problem?

Chemical munitions dumped in the Baltic Sea are a major problem
both for users of the sea and for the environment.

 

Chemical 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 fishermen.


 

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.

A video tour on Chemical Weapon Munitions Dumped at Sea (Baltic Sea at 4:05)

US terms and definitions for military munitions.

More information on chemical weapons in general you can find at www.toxipedia.org and about chemical and conventional ammunition in the Baltic Sea at www.coastalwiki.org
 

What has been already done ?

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 cLuster LeAgue.

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 UMBRELLA project.
 

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);




Contact:

Katarzyna Pirowska
k.pirowska[at]gios.gov.pl

Chief Inspectorate of Environmental Protection

Wawelska 52-54 

00-922 Warsaw

Poland

http://www.gios.gov.pl/

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