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X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
X-Ray Mag #62 - Sep 2014
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An Oceanic Time Bomb

Governments and industries around the globe have been using the oceans to dispose of the hazardous and toxic wastes that became a problem on land.
Chemical Weapon Munitions Dumped at Sea
With an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude, the most hazardous and toxic constituents ever created have been dumped off shore rather than recycled, or elementalized into benign elements. This has been done globally, often secretly, often carelessly, often without keeping records, so that now, the actual locations of the dump sites are in most cases unknown.
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Yet, the technology required to locate, retrieve, and clean up these sites is available! It has been found by industry and government, but the willpower necessary to address the problem will not arise as long as the public remains unaware of the full extent of the problem, and fails to demand action.

This massive hazardous waste disposal has been going on for centuries, but it has dramatically increased in volume and toxicity in recent decades. Since the Second World War, radioactive waste has been added to the toxic pile, and in many cases these barrels are already leaking. Such barrels are washing up on the coast of Somalia, and are known to lie off San Francisco and in the English Channel as well as other locations. Adding to the problem are pipes in Sellafield, United Kingdom, and La Hague, France, which simply carry radioactive waste from nuclear plants directly into the ocean; nuclear submarines that have been accidentally lost still lie on the floor of the north Atlantic Ocean, their nuclear reactors still in place.

War munitions have also been dumped in unexpected quantities in oceans around the world, most of them off the coasts of the United States and Europe. The quantities in many cases involve hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic chemicals. Some of these were accurately recorded, but many were not.

For the locations of known sites see above video, "Chemical Weapon Munitions Dumped at Sea," from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Secret and under-reported
While the more dramatic pollution accidents, such as Fukushima, gain attention in the media, some experts feel that it is the secret and under-reported disposal of radioactive waste and other toxins that is more dangerous, and now threaten the oceans’ capacity to adequately dilute it.

Yet, this aspect of oceanic pollution is under-reported, and difficult to research, in spite of growing concern about marine health. All life originated in the oceans, and water forms the basis of life. The system through which water circulates by evaporating from the oceans, falling as rain, running into rivers, and flowing back to the oceans, is the key life-supporting system of our planet, and the oceans furnish about 80 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere.

Threatened species
The oceanic ecosystems fringing the land, where the sun penetrates to the seafloor and supports the rich communities we visit by diving, are particularly threatened. Those shallow waters along the shores and on the continental shelves, are home to a high fraction of oceanic life, and it is in these regions that many shark species have established nurseries, or pupping grounds. They, along with countless other species that depend on the shallows for part of their life-span, are most threatened by possible future leaks. Heavy concentrations of hazardous waste roll into the shore in waves, concentrate along the shorelines, and poison them.

The barrels of hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste lying off shore constitute a ticking time bomb. Government and industry did not know what to do with such hazardous compounds when they created them, and now the effect on oceanic life as a result of their irresponsible practice is not known. But, they are in our water system, and when this bomb goes off, it may well bring about the planet’s worst progressive extinction cascade so far.

Clean-up technology exists, unused
Yet, the technology required to locate, retrieve, and clean up these sites is available! It has been found by industry and government, but the willpower necessary to address the problem will not arise as long as the public remains unaware of the full extent of the problem, and fails to demand action. Information regarding local areas needs to be brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities, so that the necessary processes can be set in motion to finally clean the mess up. ■

Ila France Porcher, author of The Shark Sessions, is an ethologist who focused on the study of reef sharks after she moved to Tahiti in 1995. Her observations, which are the first of their kind, have yielded valuable details about their lives, including their reproductive cycle, social biology, population structure, daily behaviour patterns, roaming tendencies and cognitive abilities. Her next book, On the Ethology of Reef Sharks, will soon be released.

Download the stand alone article PDF by clicking on the link below:

  Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/
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