Date: May 14, 2018
From: South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce
Subject: SC Mayors and Small Business Chamber respond to accusations by seismic
Contact: Frank Knapp, President/CEO, 803-252-5733 (w), 803-600-6874 (c),
Billy Keyserling, Mayor, Beaufort, SC 843-592-0400 (c)
SC Mayors and Small Business Chamber respond to accusations by seismic industry supporters
Port Royal, SC—Today the Mayors of Beaufort and Port Royal, SC, and the president and CEO of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC) responded to accusations made about South Carolina coastal mayors and chamber by seismic testing supporters.
Mayors Billy Keyserling (Beaufort) and Samuel Murray (Port Royal) expressed their concern for their local economies if seismic airgun blasting, oil exploration technology, was used off their state’s coast and caused the release of toxic and radioactive chemicals from conventional and chemical weapons as well as radioactive waste dumped there by the U.S. government since 1917.
Frank Knapp of the SCSBCC and the mayors pushed back on recent comments by seismic testing supporters saying that concerns were false, there was no scientific evidence for the concerns, seismic surveys cannot impact the weapons or radioactive waste and the mayors and chamber are just fear mongering.
(Below is background information about munitions and radioactive waste dumped in the Atlantic and comments made at today’s press conference.)
Conventional and Chemical Weapons Plus Radioactive Waste Dumped in the Atlantic
What we know about conventional and chemical weapons dumped in the Atlantic:
- The Department of Defense reports that from 1917 to the 1970s conventional and chemical weapons were officially dumped in 33 sites off the Atlantic Coast. Five of them are off the South Carolina Coast. Thus, the casings of these weapons have been in the ocean for are 48 to 100 years.
- We don’t know where all these weapons are because firsthand accounts from sailors on US Navy vessels responsible for the dumping say that when the weather was bad the weapons were dumped much closer to shore and not in specified dump sites.
- Shells and bombs dumped unfettered, as described by Navy sailors “may be widely dispersed by currents, tides and other forces.” (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, 2017)
- The Department of Defense report lists a total of over 17,000 tons of chemical agents disposed in official Atlantic Coast sea-based munitions dumps. These chemical agents included: lewisite, mustard, sarin, VX, arsenic trichloride, arsenic, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, cyanide, tabun, sulfur monochloride and other unknown agents.
- Many of the conventional and chemical weapons dumped at sea contain explosives that can be detonated.
- A 2016 Department of Defense report concludes that “recovering sea-disposed munitions may cause them to either break apart and release their contents or detonate” and that these weapons should not be disturbed.
- U.S. fishermen have been burned by unexploded chemical weapons when the ordinances were pulled from the waters along the Atlantic Coasts.
- Italian scientists have documented 232 instances of mustard-related injuries, including five deaths, suffered by Italian fishermen in the waters off Molfetta (near Bari) between 1946 and 1997.
- Hazardous levels of arsenical chemicals in the Mediterranean fish population, likely derived from the blister agent Lewisite, has also been observed as recently as 2005.
- A University of Georgia ecologist studying munitions dumped in Puerto Rican waters found that every marine animal tested was positive for some sort of carcinogen that came from munitions.
What we know about radioactive waste dumped in the Atlantic:
- In the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s the old Atomic Energy Commission used Navy and private vessels to dump tens of thousands of 55-gallon drums of radioactive waste in the waters off the U.S. Coasts. Thus, the steel containers of this radioactive waste have been in the ocean for are 60 to 80 years.
- Government documents acknowledge 23 official disposal sites from Massachusetts to Florida with four sites off the coast of South Carolina and five in the waters off Savannah, GA.
- We don’t know where all these radioactive waste drums are in the ocean due to vessels not dumping in official sites and migration of drums due to currents, tides and other forces.
- The Department of Defense claims that the radioactive waste in the drums is low-level. However, according to the Nuclear Information and Resource Service plutonium, cesium, strontium, iodines, and hundreds of other radionuclides that are “high-level” are often mixed with “low-level” radioactive waste. “Thus, both high- and “low”-level nuclear power wastes are hazardous for literally millions of years.”
What seismic survey trade associations/professionals say and what the Mayors and Small Business Chamber say:
They say our concerns are false: “Assertions by the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and local mayors claiming proposed Atlantic seismic surveys pose a risk of triggering the release of toxic chemical and radioactive waste are patently false.” –Nicolette Nye, National Ocean Industries Association. (Savannah Morning News, 4-30-18)
We say: Our concern is that seismic surveys could disturb toxic chemicals and radioactive waste. We ask for research to determine the possible impact. Unsubstantiated assurances from seismic survey supporters is not good enough.
They say that there is no scientific documentation of seismic surveys impacting the storage containers: “Seismic surveys have been conducted around the world for eight decades and extensively for the last five decades with no scientific documentation of any sound impacts causing the initiation of explosions or the compromise of storage containers containing chemical or radioactive waste.” –Nicolette Nye, National Ocean Industries Association. (Savannah Morning News, 4-30-18)
We say: There is no scientific documentation that seismic surveys can’t and haven’t had a negative impact on storage containers or disturbed the toxic and radioactive waste materials. If there were such documentation, the industry would have said so. We are calling for the needed research to guarantee the safety of our coastal waters.
They say seismic surveys cannot have the impact we are concerned about: “Even when directly over abandoned ordnance or waste disposal areas, the energy from the sound source is insufficient to present a risk of cracking or damaging containers or activating explosive materials.”—Gail Adams, vice president of communications and external affairs for the Houston-based International Association of Geophysical Contractors (E&E News, 5-3-18)
We say: Seismic airgun blasting creates the second loudest noise in the ocean behind military explosives. The sonic waves produced can travel more than 6 miles below the seafloor. Simply saying that these intense sound waves cannot disturb toxic and radioactive waster containers or the materials that might already be exposed is not good enough. What we do know about unexploded ordinance in the waters off Puerto Rico is that they are already leaking and releasing carcinogens into the marine food chain. The ecology professor, James Porter, who conducted the studies told the Savannah Morning News, “If a seismic blast occurs near unexploded ordinance it can explode that ordinance.” Research must be conducted.
The government says that it does not know where all unexploded weapons are in the ocean and prohibits seismic surveys where they do know there are unexploded weapons. Any company that discovers unexploded ordnance on the seafloor would be required to report the incident to the agency. “We keep track of unexploded ordnance and establish exclusion zones to avoid the affected area. Companies also have the option to pay for the removal of unexploded ordnance.”—Tracey Moriarty, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s deputy chief of public affairs. (E&E News, 5-3-18)
We say: Why does the government establish exclusion zones around unexploded weapons if the seismic surveys pose no danger of disturbing those weapons? The answer is simple. There is a degree of risk. Any risk of setting toxic and radioactive waste free in the ocean is unacceptable to our coastal communities. Research must be conducted.
They say the Small Business Chamber and Mayors are just fear mongering. “This latest false claim against seismic surveys in the Atlantic appears to be yet another case of fear mongering by groups and officials opposed to oil and gas exploration and development.”—Gail Adams, vice president of communications and external affairs for the Houston-based International Association of Geophysical Contractors (Savannah Morning News, 4-30-18)
We say: Calling for research to prove that seismic airgun blasting will not put our coastal communities at risk from the release of toxic chemicals and radioactive waste is not fear mongering. It’s common sense.