FOIA requests filed for info on ammunition and radioactive waste-dump sites off Atlantic Coast. Seismic testing resulting in toxic chemicals on beaches a big concern.

FOIA requests filed for info on ammunition and radioactive waste-dump sites off Atlantic Coast. Seismic testing resulting in toxic chemicals on beaches a big concern.

Date:       April 9, 2018
From:      South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce
Subject:   Info on munitions and radioactive waste dump sites in the Atlantic sought
Contact:   Frank Knapp, President/CEO, 803-252-5733 (w), 803-600-6874 (c), fknapp@scsbc.org
James Barton, 757-572-7750

Columbia, SC—Today a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the U.S. Department of Defense by the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC) to obtain the facts about ammunition dumps in the Atlantic that contain conventional, chemical and radioactive weapons and materials.  FOIA requests were also sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce for information on radioactive waste disposed of in the Atlantic.

“For over 60 years our country has used the Atlantic Ocean as a trash can for all kinds of toxic materials,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the SCSBCC.  “According to a 2009 Defense Department report, ‘Prior to the 1970s . . . sea disposal was considered one of the safest alternatives available to dispose of munitions.’  That report indicates that over 17,000 tons of munitions with highly toxic materials have been dumped along the Atlantic Coast.  In the 1950’s the old Atomic Energy Commission approved the dumping of radioactive waste in 55-gallon drums in the ocean. Industries creating other kinds of toxic wastes did the same.”

The FOIA requests seek to identify the exact locations, types of toxic materials, containers used, weight of deposits and dates of the dumps. This information would be the basis for asking for mitigation strategies to prevent the disturbance of these toxic material dump sites should federal agencies approve seismic surveys in the Atlantic to explore for oil and gas deposits.

A retired member of the U.S. Navy Bomb Squad and expert on sea-dumped munitions has warned the National Marine Fisheries Service about seismic airgun blasts disturbing munition deposits. James Barton told the agency that the intensity of the seismic surveys “have ample power to disrupt severely corroded yet otherwise stable concentrations of sea dumped munitions.”  The result would be harmful to dolphins and beachgoers.

A 2016 Department of Defense Report to Congress concludes that disturbing these sea-disposed munitions would have serious consequences and it is best to leave the munitions in place.

“As if seismic testing — harming our underwater wildlife and threatening our local economy — was not enough, now learning that there is a potential for disrupting radio active waste and toxic chemicals buried deep in the waters off our coast puts the icing on the cake. It’s time to stop this nonsense.  As public officials and citizens, we must keep our batteries charged and move as fast as we can to prevent the proposed dangerous seismic air gun testing in our pristine waters.  Advocacy first and then the courts if necessary” said Mayor Billy Keyserling of Beaufort.

“We all know that offshore drilling for oil will lead to oil washing up on our beaches,” said Mayor Jane Darby of the Town of Edisto Beach, a popular tourist destination in South Carolina.  “Now we know that our tourism economy is also threatened by toxic chemicals rolling in with the waves just from the exploration for offshore oil.”

“Even the Department of Defense says that its munition dumps in the Atlantic shouldn’t be disturbed, said Mayor Marilyn Hatley of North Myrtle Beach.  “That’s why we’re ready to join the SC Small Business Chamber and up to 15 other South Carolina coastal municipalities to stop seismic testing.”

The 2009 Defense Department report identifies the general locations of 33 munition dump sites in the Atlantic with 5 of those off the South Carolina coast.  Chemical agents in these deposits include the chemical warfare weapons materials of lewisite, mustard gas, sarin and arsenic.