Researchers are warning that millions of pounds of unexploded bombs and other military ordnance that were dumped decades ago in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, could now pose serious threats to shipping lanes and the 4,000 oil and gas rigs in the Gulf.
William Bryant and Neil Slowey, professors of oceanography at Texas A&M University, and researcher Mike Kemp in Washington, say millions of pounds of bombs are scattered over the Gulf of Mexico and also off the coasts of at least 16 states, from New Jersey to Hawaii.
Bryant said the discarded bombs are hardly a secret. “This has been well known for decades by many people in marine science and oceanography,” he explained.
A press release from his school said he would give a presentation in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Oct. 1 about the bombs to a group of oceanographers and marine scientists during the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions conference.
“The best guess is that at least 31 million pounds of bombs were dumped, but that could be a very conservative estimate,” Bryant said.
He said these include "all kinds of bombs, from land mines to the standard military bombs, also several types of chemical weapons. Our military also dumped bombs offshore that they got from Nazi Germany right after World War II. No one seems to know where all of them are and what condition they are in today.”
Photos show some of the chemical weapons canisters, such as those that carried mustard gas, appear to be leaking materials and are damaged, the school said.
“The bottom line is that these bombs are a threat today and no one knows how to deal with the situation,” Bryant said. “If chemical agents are leaking from some of them, that’s a real problem. If many of them are still capable of exploding, that’s another big problem.
"There is a real need to research the locations of these bombs and to determine if any are leaking materials that could be harmful to marine life and humans,” he said. - Chris Dupin