Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Jersey fisherman hauls in a mustard-gas catch

In a bizarre incident that spotlights the vast amount of chemical weapons and munitions debris littering the ocean floor, a crewman aboard an Atlantic City, NJ clamming boat remained hospitalized yesterday for exposure to mustard gas after his vessel dredged up World War I-era munition shells, the Boston Globe reports.

Konstantin Burndshov sustained burns and blisters on an arm and leg and was sickened after handling a shell that had been hauled aboard the ESS Pursuit on Sunday in waters off Long Island, New York.

Burndshov, a New Jersey resident, remained hospitalized last night at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, but is expected to make a full recovery. Three other crew members suffered milder symptoms and were treated in New Bedford and released.

The boat's owner told the Atlantic City Press that the crew has been working off New England recently on beds of ocean quahogs and bringing them to New Bedford, MA. He said it is an area they have worked before.

Massachusetts fishermen and even beachgoers occasionally come across unexploded ordnance on Cape Cod and Island beaches, or near shore areas, because those areas were once used as practice ranges by the military. There are also former dumping grounds off Massachusetts, including a region often called the Foul Area, which had been used to dump radioactive and toxic waste until the 1970s.

The Defense Department began using the ocean as a dumping ground for chemical and conventional munitions after World War II. The military says it stopped in 1970, and two years later Congress banned waste disposal in oceans, including chemical weapons.

Officials say it’s impossible to know exactly how much and what type of weapons have been dumped in the ocean because of incomplete records. A 2001 Army report found 74 past instances of ocean disposal — 32 off U.S. shores and 42 off foreign coasts.

For example, in 1967 the Army dumped 4,577 one-ton containers of a mustard agent and 7,380 sarin rockets off the New Jersey shore, according to Army records.

More than 1,100 World War I-era military munitions were pumped ashore during a multimillion-dollar beach-replenishment project in Surf City, NJ in May, 2007.  A year later, a rare May northeaster rocked the coast and deposited 13 more munitions on the city's beaches.

Atlantic City clam boat dredges up mustard gas munitions in Massachusetts
Coast Guard searches for military shells
Chemical Weapon Munitions Dumped at Sea:An Interactive Map

Our most recent posts:
Out-of-control well spews--in Pennsylvania
Is food waste recycling an investment play?

New rules will affect development in Pennsylvania
New EPA rule will target sanitary sewer overflows

Like this post? You’ll love our daily newsletter
EnviroPolitics - Try it free for 30 days!

Subscribe here to view all our YouTube videos

Repost this article