Ecotoxicological Risk of World War Relic Munitions in the Sea after Low- and High-Order Blast-in-Place Operations

Edmund Maser*, Katrine J. Andresen, Tobias H. Bünning, Ole R. Clausen, Uwe Wichert, Jennifer S. Strehse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Submerged munitions from World War I and II are threatening human activities in the oceans, including fisheries and shipping or the construction of pipelines and offshore facilities. To avoid unforeseen explosions, remotely controlled “blast-in-place” (BiP) operations are a common practice worldwide. However, after underwater BiP detonations, the toxic and carcinogenic energetic compounds (ECs) will not completely combust but rather distribute within the marine ecosphere. To shed light on this question, two comparable World War II mines in Denmark’s Sejerø Bay (Baltic Sea) were blown up by either low-order or high-order BiP operations by the Royal Danish Navy. Water and sediment samples were taken before and immediately after the respective BiP operation and analyzed for the presence of ECs with sensitive GC-MS/MS and LC-MS/MS technology. EC concentrations increased after high-order BiP detonations up to 353 ng/L and 175 μg/kg in water and sediment, respectively, while low-order BiP detonations resulted in EC water and sediment concentrations up to 1,000,000 ng/L (1 mg/L) and >10,000,000 μg/kg (>10 g/kg), respectively. Our studies provide unequivocal evidence that BiP operations in general lead to a significant increase of contamination of the marine environment and ecotoxicological risk with toxic ECs. Moreover, as compared to high-order BiP detonations, low-order BiP detonations resulted in a several 1000-fold higher burden on the marine environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume57
Issue48
Pages (from-to)20169-20181
Number of pages13
ISSN0013-936X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • blast-in-place detonations
  • energetic compounds
  • high-order BiP detonations
  • low-order BiP detonations
  • submerged munitions
  • TNT carcinogenicity
  • TNT toxicity

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