It seems like only yesterday I was complaining about the irresponsible disposal of hydrolyzed VX nerve agent.
After reading this story, though, dumping 4 million gallons of VX hydrolysate in the Delaware River begins to sound unimpeachably safe and sane:
The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste - either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.George W. Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein's apocryphal stockpile of nerve agents comprised roughly 500 tons. By contrast, our own military dumped 32,000 tons of the same agents into our coastal waters, where they continue to do untold economic and environmental damage (and, surprisingly often, injure unlucky fishermen).
A Daily Press investigation also found:
These weapons of mass destruction virtually ring the country, concealed off at least 11 states - six on the East Coast, two on the Gulf Coast, California, Hawaii and Alaska. Few, if any, state officials have been informed of their existence.
The chemical agents could pose a hazard for generations. The Army has examined only a few of its 26 dump zones and none in the past 30 years.
"We do not claim to know where they all are," said William Brankowitz, a deputy project manager in the Army Chemical Materials Agency and a leading authority on the Army's chemical weapons dumping. "We don't want to be cavalier at all and say this stuff was exposed to water and is OK. It can last for a very, very long time."Fascinating, eh? Perhaps it'll turn out that overfishing isn't the sole cause of the decline in fish populations over the last few decades.
A drop of nerve agent can kill within a minute. When released in the ocean, it lasts up to six weeks, killing every organism it touches before breaking down into its nonlethal chemical components.
Mustard gas can be fatal. When exposed to seawater, it forms a concentrated, encrusted gel that lasts for at least five years, rolling around on the ocean floor, killing or contaminating sea life.
This is the first in a series of articles the Daily Press will be writing on this subject. Tell your friends!