OCEAN DRILLING: Concerned about drilling off Nova Scotia? Add military chemical, biological and weapons dumps to your concerns.


Mustard_gas_ww2_poster

Seems this was brought up way back in 2002 when Miles Kehoe petitioned the Canadian government for answers. His concerns included: “Military personnel have told me that 28 sites have earned the Canadian Armed Forces designation of “Military Top Priority One Classification“.  This designation is apparently reserved for sites known to have reactive and viable chemical and biological weapons or nuclear weapons. Ten of these sites are charted on fishing charts, most are not. The military has said that they are not sure where the rest are. Nor are they certain about the contents of most of these underwater dumps.”

In addition  there are concerns about unidentified nuclear dumps as well as domestic and other dumps created surreptitiously.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Canada has environmental obligations to other countries that signed this treaty. It seems that none of these concerns are being addressed and everyone that shares the waters of Atlantica, Canadian and American alike, should be concerned.

Art MacKay

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Military dumpsites off Canada’s Atlantic coast

Petition: No. 50A

Issue(s): Fisheries, natural resources, toxic substances, waste management, and water

Petitioner(s): Myles Kehoe

Date Received: 2 April 2002

Status: Completed

Summary: The petitioner raised concerns about the proposed oil and gas exploration projects off Canada’s Atlantic coast. Through his own research, the petitioner has documented the presence of numerous chemical weapons dumpsites and military dumpsites of unexploded ordnances off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The petitioner expressed concern about the potential impacts that oil and gas exploration might have on these sites.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade—Department of [1996-2003], Health Canada, National Defence, Natural Resources Canada

Petition

March 25, 2002

Mrs. Sheila Fraser
Auditor General of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

Dear Mrs. Fraser,

I am writing this letter to petition you, the Auditor General, under the Auditor General Act, section 22.

The basis of my request under the Act is the following: I am concerned about the possible effects of proposed oil and natural gas exploration activities on ocean dump sites of chemical warfare agents, specifically with regard to the health of Atlantic Canadians and life forms in the sea.

In addition, I am concerned about the impact of these dump sites generally on the marine ecosystem, fishermen and our health.

At this point I might add that I live in Cape Breton, my people came to Nova Scotia around 1633. I belong to no political party or environmental group. I do not lobby. I don’t benefit from the oil and gas industry or the Canadian Armed Forces, nor did I get funding of any sort from anyone to do my research on this issue. I am just a single parent of two, living in rural Cape Breton.

I have spent almost 12 years researching this issue—collecting fishing charts and printed materials, talking with elderly military personnel, fishermen, and captains who fished in and over these dumps. Yes, they are there! We know that chemical warfare agents have been dumped off the coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland—we just don’t know how much is down there. Interviews conducted with members of Canada’s Armed Forces have confirmed that the problem is real.

I have concluded that there may be over 100 charted and uncharted military munitions dump sites both on shore and off the coastline of Atlantic Canada. This is a problem shared by other coastal countries such as Ireland, Britain, Scotland, Australia, Russia, the United States and Japan. This is also an issue for the marine environment off the coast of British Columbia.

We know that major stockpiles of chemical weapons such as Mustard Gas left over from World War II were disposed of at sea by the military. In 1946, Canada’s Navy was anxious to calm public concerns over the land-based storage of surplus chemical weapons agents, and decided to reduce this stockpile by disposal at sea. In the years immediately following the end of hostilities, ships carrying mustard gas left from the Nova Scotian ports of Sydney and Halifax. In some cases, the entire vessel was scuttled. By way of example, members of the press and film media were invited on board the General Drury to accompany a cargo of 10,982 45-gallon drums of mustard gas which were towed in a Tank Landing Craft, the LST-209. This barge-like craft was then scuttled 180 miles south east of Halifax in 1,350 fathoms (February 21, 1946).

Conversations with elderly career fishermen, retired merchant mariners and Armed Forces personnel indicate that a sizable portion of Canada’s post-war stockpile of surplus chemical weapons agents, in particular Mustard Gas, may lie off the coast of Cape Breton in the regions known as the Sydney bight and the Laurentian Sub-Basin (please refer to the enclosed maps). More lies off of Newfoundland’s coast, the north coast of the Magdellen Islands and near Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy (see maps, newspaper accounts).

Between 1959 and 1962, ships carrying surplus American munitions were loaded at the dockyards of the U.S. Milary Base at Argentia, Newfoundland, bound for ocean dumpsites along Canada’s east coast. Other shipments of surplus U.S. chemical munitions were similarly dumped off the U.S. East Coast.

Fishermen in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland protested against the ocean dumping of mustard gas after the War. They feared that it would destroy their fishing grounds. When I reviewed the newspaper clippings from 1946, I discovered a quote from a military chemist. He addressed their concerns by stating that the slow leakage of the gas into the sea would not be harmful to them or the fish (see Cornwall, Ontario and Halifax newspaper accounts from 1946). They didn’t know at the time that the components of mustard gas had the ability to bind irreversibly to the DNA and disrupt normal DNA functioning and / or that it can predispose a person to cancers or birth defects in their offspring.

Moreover, the chemistry of Mustard Gas needs to be taken into account. Mustard Gas is a liquid at room temperature but turns into thick goo in the cold waters of the ocean bottom. It is essentially a stable compound and will retain its viability and reactivity indefinitely. When exposed to sea water, mustard forms a thick outer “crust” over a core of mustard which allows it to be brought to the surface where it can injure unsuspecting fishermen. Studies indicate that mustard gas remains unchanged after storage on land for period exceeding 80 years.

Military personnel have told me that 28 sites have earned the Canadian Armed Forces designation of “Military Top Priority One Classification” This designation is apparently reserved for sites known to have reactive and viable chemical and biological weapons or nuclear weapons. Ten of these sites are charted on fishing charts, most are not. The military has said that they are not sure where the rest are. Nor are they certain about the contents of most of these underwater dumps.

For years I have been concerned about how these underwater stores of chemical warfare agents may be affecting the overall health of the marine ecosystem, marine species and people. Fishermen have told me about strange lesions of the fish they catch. Lesions on cetacean species such as whales have also been observed. I have often wondered why the cancer rate is so high in Cape Breton and Atlantic Canada. Why are cancer rates increasing in whales, salmon, cod and other species in the sea? Why doesn’t the Department of Fisheries and Oceans question the disappearance of fish stocks and the failure of these stocks to recover despite harsh conservation methods? The egg and larva stages of the cod and haddock are dying at a rate of 50 percent. We need to look at where the dumps are and what they contain in order to find out whether there is a connection.

The recent issuance of oil and natural gas exploration leases for the Sydney Bight and the Western Side of Cape Breton has heightened my concern about these undocumented military dumpsites. Exploration licenses 2364 and 2365 were granted to Hunt Oil in 1998. Corridor Resources was issued another exploration license (2368) in 1999. Gulf Oil has a lease which includes a military dumpsite south of Newfoundland (square on charts) and Corridor Resources has a lease north of the Magdellen Islands which may include a 20 – 30 mile diameter military dumpsite.

I know from my research that there are dumpsites of chemical warfare agents within these leased areas. I am also aware that one the best ways to map the undersea geologic formations most likely to contain basins of natural gas or oil is to conduct seismic tests. This method employs sound waves and uses the principle of echolocation. It involves the utilization of sound waves that are so loud as to be beyond the threshold of pain for humans and many marine animals. This has led me to consider other question. How wills this testing affect the chemical warfare agents stored in the bottom of the ocean?

Exploration in the offshore areas covered by some of these leases is on hold pending the completion of a Public Review on the effects of potential oil and gas exploration and drilling within the areas covered by the exploration leases. The Commissioner responsible for the Public Review convened public hearings last fall. I presented a study that I prepared on this issue and made a formal submission during the hearings. Please review the findings contained in our Study and submission (see enclosed). The Study and final statement can also be viewed on line at http://www.cnsopb.ns.ca/Archives/Cape_Breton/cbindexa.html (under submissions – see Myles and Associates).

In the course of the Public Review, many fisheries groups, biologists and other scientists have expressed well researched concerns over the use of seismic testing in general and the risks associated with this kind of exploration activity in the License areas.

In our Study we point out that we were unable to reference documented studies indicating the safety of seismic testing and other exploration activities over military (chemical weapons) and industrial dump sites.

It has been documented that offshore dumping also occurred off the coasts of Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland, etc. Activities like oil and gas and fishing are disturbing these sites. More than 1000 pieces of munitions have come ashore in the Irish Sea. In the last number of years, the Irish Coast Guard has had to do routine checks of the beaches. On one occasion, in 1983, a Danish fishing boat pulled up mustard gas shells. A number of crewmembers were injured as a result (please see clipping from the Globe & Mail (1984).

After almost three weeks of public review hearings on oil and gas exploration on the west side of Cape Briton and the two leases on Sydney Bight, and after the release of our Study and our warnings, the spokesman for Hunt Oil said on CBC Radio that this issue is not a concern to his company. Well, it is to a lot of us.

Summary of Concerns

  1. The persistence of chemical warfare agents in underwater dumpsites off our coasts and the well documented long term viability and reactivity of chemical weapons.
  2. Some of these marine dumpsites are charted on civilian charts; labelled as Danger Areas, Unexploded Depth Charges, Unexploded Bombs, etc. Dumpsite locations may not be charted on civilian charts, as is the case with the 2,800 tons of Mustard Gas in the Gully. In either case, inventories of exactly what type of munitions that were disposed of at sea were not always kept.
  3. The presence of these deadly contaminants in areas which may be open for commercial ground-fishing, thereby placing fishermen and the marine ecosystem at risk.
  4. The proposed plan for oil and natural gas exploration activities, such as seismic testing and test well drilling, may lead to disturbance of these chemical warfare agents or other industrial contaminants and thereby introduce them into the food chain or cause exposure to workers.
  5. The current flow directional arrow on Canadian Hydrographic chart #4022 indicates a major bi-directional current near the dumpsite north of the Magdellen Islands which may be under lease to Corridor Resources by the Province of Quebec. Disturbance of this site may see munitions or chemical warfare agents carried great distances, both toward Cape Breton and toward the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.
  6. According to newspaper accounts, published information and experts on the topic, Mustard Gas as a chemical munition exists in many forms ranging from Distilled Mustard (HD) to high quality Mustard Gas, made more lethal by the addition of other chemicals, surfactants, plasticizers, etc. These additives change many of properties, especially salt water degradation rates. Canada’s wartime Mustard Gas plant (Stormont Industries in Cornwall, Ontario) packaged high quality Mustard Gas in bombs and shells, all under top secret conditions. These agents were not used in battle in World War II. This begs the question: what did the government do with these Canadian-produced munitions?
  7. Siltation accrues naturally on the ocean floor (a mine sub with a camera may fail to spot bombs on shells containing mustard gas as they may be heavily silted over (possibly one to three metres of silt). There may be leaching of Mustard Gas or its toxic breakdown products into the surrounding or underlying silt.
  8. Without a thorough knowledge of the dumpsite locations, their inventories, and the risks posed by these chemicals to the environment, now is not the time to proceed with oil and natural gas exploration or production in the areas that are the subject of consideration by the Public Review related to Exploration Licenses 2364, 2365 and 2368.
  9. The recent admission, by the Canadian Coast Guard, of their ill preparedness to handle any industrial or chemical marine accident associated with exploration or production activities (see newspaper accounts).

I would like you, the Auditor General, to make a record of my petition and forward it to the following ministers: the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Fisheries, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Transport. In addition, please consider notifying the National Energy Board of these concerns and the oil and gas licensing authorities of Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

Petition Questions and Recommendations

  1. How will the proposed oil and gas exploration activities affect the ocean dumpsites of chemical (and biological?) weapons (especially where the chemical agents may be encased in bombs or shell casings and may still be viable and reactive)?
  2. I request a moratorium on all oil and natural gas exploration in the near shore and offshore areas of Canada’s Atlantic coast, or a boundary similar in size that recently achieved by the State of Florida (see newspaper accounts). Time is needed by DND and all departments to study what is in all of the sites.
  3. All existing dumpsites, (military and non-military, charted and uncharted) must be located, mapped and inventoried. Research on the clean up and disposal of the chemicals in question should be conducted by trained professionals of the Canadian Armed Forces. Open-ended funding must be provided to the Armed Forces to study and resolve this complex problem in conjunction with other federal departments.
  4. How are these military dumps affecting our health and the health of the life in the sea off Atlantic Canada? Fisheries scientists seem unable to account for disappearing fish stocks and the failure for recovery in the absence of commercial fishing activity. Has the federal government conducted research to determine whether the dumpsites containing chemical warfare agents might be contributing to continuing problems with fish stocks? If not, is the Canadian government prepared to undertake such research and co-operate with other nations facing a similar dilemma?
  5. What are the effects on the food chain and ultimately human health once these chemical weapons stores are disturbed? Has their presence in areas open to commercial ground-fishing and oil and gas exploration been affecting our health or the health of fishermen in Atlantic Canada or other regions where know ocean dumpsites containing mustard gas and other agents have been “disposed of?” It is important to remember that dragger fishermen may not be aware of the hazards lurking on the bottom of the ocean because many or most of these sites are uncharted.
  6. All dumpsites must be declared exclusion zones for commercial ground fishing (dragging, etc.) with buffer zones of at least five miles to take into account drift. Experts on current flow may suggest greater buffer zones and I would respect their cautious approach.
  7. For reasons of national security and public health, no one should have access to these dumpsites without the permission of the Canadian Armed Forces (it must be stressed that these chemical warfare agents may still be 100 percent viable after 50 years on the ocean floor).
  8. All military and industrial dumpsites should be included on Canadian Hydrographic Service marine charts. These charts should be revised frequently to reflect new information, as it becomes available.
  9. Military charts held in Canadian, British and American archives should be de-classifed.
  10. The government needs to develop an action plan to deal with these sites over the long-term. Remediation and clean-up may be an option. Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans should be involved.
  11. Information on research, inventory and dumpsite remediation needs to be shared with members of the general public.
  12. The Canadian Coast Guard is charged with the responsibility to coordinate and participate in any clean-up operations which may be necessitated as a result of oil and natural gas exploration, production or transmission. Has the Coast Guard considered the release into the ocean environment of Mustard Gas or related chemical weapons agents or industrial chemicals. Our research indicates that Mustard Gas is still viable after 55 years.
  13. Under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Canada is a signatory, governments are mandated to “clean up contaminated sites of chemical weapons in an environmentally responsible and verifiable manner.” How is Canada ensuring that it is fulfilling this commitment in relation to these underwater marine dumpsites?
  14. Should the disturbance of the contents of these dumpsites by oil / gas exploration, production or transmission lead to a monumental ecological disaster, where or with whom will the responsibility rest? The possible health effects will rest with us all and ocean-based life.

I thank you,

Sincerely,

[Original signed by Myles Kehoe]

Myles Kehoe
Box 628
Margaree Forks
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
B0E 2A0

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Minister’s Response: Environment Canada

August 13, 2002

Mr. Myles Kehoe
Box 628
Margaree Forks
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
B0E 2A0

Dear Mr. Kehoe:

I am writing to provide Environment Canada’s response to your environmental petition (No. 50) to the Auditor General and Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, regarding historical ocean dumpsites of chemical warfare agents located off the coast of Atlantic Canada. This petition was received by us on April 22.

While the Department of National Defence (DND) is the lead agency with respect to addressing the questions raised in your petition, my department will provide advice to DND, as part of an interdepartmental working group, to ensure environmental risks associated with these sites are appropriately addressed. Other departments contributing to this working group are the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Health Canada (HC) and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

Please find enclosed Environment Canada’s answers to those questions which are relevant to its mandate. I want to assure you that my department will continue to actively participate in assisting DND with this project, and we will ensure that any appropriate actions identified are undertaken.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by David Anderson, Minister of the Environment]

David Anderson, P.C., M.P.


Environment Canada’s Response to Environmental Petition No. 50 Under Section 22 of the Auditor General Act

Petitioner: Myles Kehoe, Margaree Forks, Nova Scotia

Question 1.

How will the proposed oil and gas exploration activities affect the ocean dumpsites of chemical (and biological) weapons (especially where the chemical agents may be encased in bombs or shell casings and may still be viable and reactive?)

  • Oil and gas projects are subject to review by the Canada-Nova Scotia and Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Boards under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act. These project proposals include extensive surveying of the sea-floor, using sonar and other techniques which are capable of identifying and locating sites that pose environmental and safety risks. Metal casings, shells and storage containers can be detected using several of these techniques.
  • In the short term, these surveys and good communication between the companies and the government will ensure that historical military dumpsites are avoided during oil and gas exploration activity.
  • A specific example would be Mobile Oil’s construction of the Venture Pipeline Corridor off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1983, where sea-floor studies determined the presence of a historical military ordnance site and the pipeline route was modified to avoid it.
  • Environment Canada is assisting DND in conducting a project to identify, characterize and catalogue these old military dumpsites. This project, the Warfare Agent Disposal Project, will further reduce the risks that these sites pose to the environment and human health.

Question 2.

I request a moratorium on all oil and natural gas exploration in the near shore and offshore areas of Canada’s Atlantic coast, or a boundary similar in size to that recently achieved by the State of Florida. Time is needed by DND and all departments to study what is in all of the sites.

  • Again, individual oil and gas projects require extensive surveying of the sea-floor where activities are proposed, which would identify any hazardous zones within that project area.
  • Upon completion of the historical dumpsite inventory, the overall potential risks of oil and natural gas exploration on these sites off the coast of Atlantic Canada will be identified and properly assessed. Environment Canada will advise DND in determining the most appropriate management options to mitigate the environmental risks of these sites.
  • You should also be aware that whenever Environment Canada is identified as a responsible authority under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the review of proposed oil and gas exploration activities is carried out in cooperation with DND and other organizations represented in the interdepartmental working group, to identify any potential defence-related hazards in the area of concern.
  • Any decision relating to a moratorium on the offshore exploration of Canada’s Atlantic Coast is under the jurisdiction of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Boards (CNOSPB) and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Boards (CNSOPB). These Boards will be made aware of the results of the investigations for their consideration and action, if necessary.

Question 3.

All existing dumpsites (military, non-military, charted and uncharted) must be located, mapped and inventoried. Research on the clean-up and disposal of the chemicals in question should be conducted by trained professionals of the Canadian Armed Forces. Open-ended funding must be provided to the Armed Forces to study and resolve this complex problem in conjunction with other federal departments.

  • As indicated above, Environment Canada is presently assisting DND in identifying, characterizing and cataloguing these historical dumpsites. As an expert department, we will provide technical advice to DND in identifying and assessing the potential environmental risks of these sites and the appropriate measures needed to continue to protect the environment.
  • We would refer your questions regarding research conducted by trained professionals of DND and the open-ended funding to our colleagues at DND.
  • The sea disposal of military waste has occurred in many areas of the world and Environment Canada is currently canvassing other countries on their environmental management approaches and on any scientific data on this problem. This information will be provided to DND through the interdepartmental working group.

Question 5.

What are the effects on the food chain and ultimately human health once these chemical weapons stores are disturbed? Has their presence in areas open to commercial groundfishing and oil/gas exploration been affecting our health or the health of fishermen in Atlantic Canada or other regions where known ocean containing mustard gas and other agents have been “disposed of?” It is important to remember that dragger fishermen may not be aware of the hazards lurking on the bottom of the ocean because many or most of these sites are uncharted.

  • Environment Canada is aware of studies related to the environmental effects of chemicals used in weapons. However, in order to assess the risks posed by the sites located in Atlantic Canadian waters, specific details about the numbers of sites, types of chemicals present at the site, quantities of materials, disposal site characteristics, and other site-specific factors are required. Increased knowledge relating to these factors is an expected outcome of the historical dumpsite inventory being compiled by DND.
  • Upon completion of the inventory, an assessment of each site can be completed to include both human health and ecological risks.
  • Although this is a serious concern, given the nature of the hazard posed by chemical agents on the sea-floor, there have been no reported incidents involving these chemical agents in Canada.

Question 10.

The government needs to develop an action plan to deal with these sites over the long-term. Remediation and clean-up may be an option. Environment Canada and DFO should be involved.

  • Environment Canada is committed to being an active participant in the risk management plan being developed under the leadership of DND, with consultation from the interdepartmental working group. This project is expected to be completed over a three-year period.
  • An initial meeting was held May 21, 2002, at DND with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada, and Natural Resources Canada to discuss this issue and how each of the stakeholder departments could assist DND.
  • Environment Canada provides technical, scientific and regulatory advice related to environmental assessment and remediation of federal contaminated sites. The disposal at sea of chemical and biological warfare agents has been banned in Canada since 1975. Since that time, Environment Canada has had regulatory responsibilities to control disposal at sea activities. Environment Canada also monitors ocean disposal sites under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
  • As such, Environment Canada intends to provide advice to DND and the interdepartmental working group on this issue with respect to assessing the degree of environmental risk posed by the sites and the proposed mitigation and/or remediation measures, as deemed necessary.

Question 11.

Information on research inventory and dumpsite remediation needs to be shared with members of the general public.

  • Environment Canada will work to ensure that the Warfare Agent Disposal Project is conducted in a transparent manner. The Department is aware of the potential importance of the information being collected to the marine environment. That said, some of the information presents security concerns for the safety of Canadians, and we will work with DND and the interdepartmental working group to ensure they are addressed.

Question 14.

Should the disturbance of the contents of these dumpsites by oil/gas exploration production or transmission lead to a monumental ecological disaster where or with whom will the responsibility rest? The possible health effects will rest with us and all ocean-based life.

  • I share your concern and we need to work to prevent such an incident. For that reason, Environment Canada is working cooperatively and proactively with DND, and other departments, to reduce or eliminate potential environmental risks that could be posed by these dumpsites.

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Minister’s Response: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

September 4, 2002

Mr. Myles Kehoe
P.O. Box 628
Margaree Forks, Nova Scotia
B0E 2A0

Dear Mr. Kehoe:

This letter is in response to your petition of March 28, 2002, submitted under Section 22 of the Auditor General’s Act regarding ocean dumpsites of chemical warfare agents located off the coast of Atlantic Canada. This petition was received in my office from Ms. Johanne Gélinas, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, on April 11, 2002.

The Department of National Defence is the lead federal organization with respect to addressing the questions raised in your petition. Officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada have reviewed your questions and responded to those that the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development identified as being related to our mandate. Questions #2 to #8, #10 to #12 and #14 were identified as being relevant to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Question #2

“I request a moratorium on all oil and natural gas exploration in the near shore and offshore areas of Canada’s Atlantic coast, or a boundary similar in size that was recently achieved by the State of Florida. Time is needed by the Department of National Defence and all departments to study what is in all of these sites.”

Response:

Natural Resources Canada, as the federal lead on energy policy and with an overall responsibility for oil and gas management south of 60 degrees north, is the department best able to respond to this question. In the absence of a moratorium, any work proposal will first have to undergo an environmental assessment. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has no mandate to respond to this question.

Questions #3, #7 and #8

(3) “All existing dumpsites (military, non-military, charted and uncharted) must be located, mapped and inventoried. Research on the clean-up and disposal of the chemicals in question should be conducted by trained professionals of the Canadian Armed Forces. Open ended funding must be provided to the Armed Forces to study and resolve this complex problem in conjunction with other federal departments.”

(7) “For reasons of national security and public health, no one should have access to these dumpsites without the permission of the Canadian Armed Forces (it must be stressed that these chemical warfare agents may still be 100 percent viable after 50 years on the ocean floor.)”

(8) “All military and industrial dumpsites should be included on Canadian Hydrographic Service marine charts. These charts should be revised frequently to reflect new information as it becomes available.”

Response:

Your petition refers to Canadian Hydrographic Service nautical charts LC 4022 and 4490. These charts are referenced in the report entitled “A Study of the Possible Effects of Proposed Oil and Natural Gas Exploration Activities on Ocean Dumpsites and Chemical Warfare Agents”, prepared by Myles and Associates dated December 26, 2001. The military dumping sites are currently shown on Canadian Hydrographic Service chart LC 4022 and those previously shown on the former cancelled chart 4490 are presently all shown on Canadian Hydrographic Service nautical charts 4047, 4002, 4003, 4012 and 4013.

Canadian Hydrographic Service will chart military dumpsites from new or revised information provided directly to them by the Department of National Defence.

Questions #4 & #5

(4) “How are these military dumps affecting our health and the health of the life in the sea off Atlantic Canada? Fisheries scientists seem unable to account for disappearing fish stocks and the failure for recovery in the absence of commercial fishing activity. Has the federal government conducted research to determine whether the dumpsites containing chemical warfare agents might be contributing to problems with fish stocks? If not, is the Canadian government prepared to undertake such research and co-operate with other nations facing a similar dilemma?”

(5) “What are the effects on the food chain and ultimately human health once these chemical weapons stores are disturbed? Has their presence in areas open to commercial groundfishing and oil/gas exploration been affecting our health or the health of fishermen in Atlantic Canada or other regions where known ocean dumpsites containing mustard gas and other agents have been “disposed of”? It is important to remember that dragger fishermen may not be aware of the hazards lurking on the bottom of the ocean because many or most of these sites are uncharted.”

Response:

The presence of unexploded ordnance on sunken ships in Atlantic waters is a potentially dangerous scenario. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working with other government departments to ensure that fishers and petroleum industry workers are not negatively impacted by these sites. The Department of National Defence has already conducted significant research to determine the presence of unexploded ordnance in sunken ships. Furthermore, the Department of National Defence, in cooperation with the other federal departments, has also initiated a project to determine the risks posed by munitions in marine disposal sites to human health and the environment. If the Department of National Defence does determine that a risk to the marine environment exists, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will assess its role in contributing to the resolution of the problem.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not conducted any studies on the toxicity or behaviour of mustard gas in water. Available information indicates that mustard gas is not a gas at the sea bottom temperatures generally found off Atlantic Canada. Mustard gas is basically insoluble in water and the amount that does enter water breaks down quickly through hydrolysis. Mustard gas does not build up in the tissues of animals because it breaks down so quickly.

Question #6

“All dumpsites must be declared exclusion zones for commercial ground fishing (dragging, etc.) with buffer zones of at least five miles to take into account drift. Experts on current flow may suggest greater buffer zones and I would respect their cautious approach.”

Response:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada would, in cooperation with Health Canada, assess the possible impact on the fishery based on information provided by the Department of National Defence. That process could lead to the declaration of a fishery exclusion zone. Canadian Coast Guard Marine Programs would aid in the process by issuing a notice to shipping and the Canadian Hydrographic Service would update the necessary charts. It should be noted that the conditions under which a fishery exclusion zone would be established would depend on the threat assessment which in turn would depend on the nature of the potential for explosion, should a weapon be disturbed or entangled in fishing gear.

Question #10

“The government needs to develop an action plan to deal with these sites over the long-term. Remediation and clean-up may be an option. Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada should be involved.”

Response:

The Department of National Defence has the lead federal responsibility for the remediation and clean-up of munitions dumpsites. If requested, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will provide scientific expertise and advice to assist the Department of National Defence in this process, and Canadian Coast Guard can act as a resource agency.

Question #11

“Information on research inventory and dumpsite remediation needs to be shared with the members of the general public.”

Response:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada does not have research information on munitions dumpsite remediation. This information is maintained by the Department of National Defence.

Question #12

“The Canadian Coast Guard is charged with the responsibility to coordinate and participate in any clean-up operations which may be necessitated as a result of oil and natural gas exploration, production or transmission. Has the Coast Guard considered the release into the ocean environment of Mustard Gas or related chemical weapons agents or industrial chemicals. Our research indicates that Mustard Gas is still viable after 55 years.”

Response:

The Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for marine pollution resulting from ships in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. Marine pollution resulting from offshore exploration and production is the responsibility of the Offshore Petroleum Boards and Natural Resources Canada, not the Canadian Coast Guard.

Question #14

“Should the disturbance of the contents of these dumpsites by oil/gas exploration, production or transmission lead to a monumental ecological disaster where or with whom will the responsibility rest? The possible health effects will rest with us and all ocean-based life.”

Response:

Should a monumental ecological disaster occur due to a result of munitions dumpsites, Fisheries and Oceans Canada would not be the lead department to respond to such an event. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will work with other departments toward an appropriate contingency plan to address such possibilities.

Thank you for bringing these important matters to my attention. I assure you Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to work with other departments to address these serious issues.

Yours truly,

[Original signed by Robert G. Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans]

Robert G. Thibault

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Minister’s Response: Foreign Affairs and International Trade—Department of [1996-2003]

October 11, 2002

Mr. Myles Kehoe
P.O. Box 628
Margaree Forks
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
B0E 2A0

Dear Mr. Kehoe,

This letter is in response to your petition concerning historical ocean disposal sites of chemical and biological warfare agents off the Atlantic coast of Canada, made under section 22 of the Auditor General Act (Environmental Petition #50), and referred to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on April 24, 2002 by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Office of the Auditor General.

The petition was referred to the National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention in the Nuclear and Chemical Disarmament Implementation Agency of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Pursuant to the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, S.C. 1995, c. 25, the Canadian National Authority is responsible for implementing Canada’s obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (the “Chemical Weapons Convention”), which entered into force on 29 April 1997.

Through its participation in the Warfare Agent Working Group, the National Authority provided advice and input to the Department of National Defence with respect to certain questions posed in your questionnaire. The answers provided appear in the letter of response to you signed by my honourable colleague the Minister of National Defence. This letter is a reiteration of those answers.

The Canadian National Authority was asked to respond to questions 13 and 4.

Petition Question 13 states: “[u]nder the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Canada is a signatory, governments are mandated to ‘clean up contaminated sites of chemical weapons in an environmentally responsible and verifiable manner.’ How is Canada ensuring that it is fulfilling this commitment in relation to these underwater marine dumpsites?”

As stated in the letter of response of the Minister of National Defence, according to the relevant provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, any chemical weapons dumped at sea before January 1,1985 shall not be declared to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (CPCW), nor destroyed in accordance with the Verification Annex of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The relevant provisions are Article III, which sets out the obligation of State Parties to declare holdings of chemical weapons, and Article IV which further provides the obligation of State Parties to destroy chemical weapons. Both Article III, paragraph 2 and Article IV, paragraph 17 provide the following:

The provisions of this Article and the relevant provisions of Part IV of the Verification Annex shall not, at the discretion of a State Party, apply to chemical weapons buried on its territory before 1 January 1977 and which remain buried, or which have been dumped at sea before 1 January 1985.

Although not required by the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Department of National Defence has determined that, under its program of environmental stewardship, pollution prevention and protection of the natural environment, any chemical, weapons or biological warfare agents that have been disposed in the ocean prior to 1985 and are determined to pose a risk to human health and the environment, will be addressed by the Department, which will act as a responsible environmental steward by managing or eliminating these risks, to the extent possible.

Petition Question 4 states: “[h]ow are these military dumps affecting our health and the health of the life in the sea off Atlantic Canada? Fisheries scientists seem unable to account for the disappearing fish stocks and the failure for recovery in the absence of commercial fishing activity. Has the federal government conducted research to determine whether the dumpsites containing chemical warfare agents might be contributing to continuing problems with fish stocks? If not, is the Canadian government prepared to undertake such research and co-operate with other nations facing a similar dilemma?”

Again, I refer you to the response made by my honourable colleague the Minister of National Defence, who noted that foreign research has indicated no significant impacts of mustard gas to the marine environment. Based on these findings, it was determined that no further studies were warranted. However, the Minister of National Defence in his response, has explained that environmental risks will be assessed at each historical ocean disposal site of chemical and biological warfare agents and munitions identified by the project. The information provided from this work will be shared with stakeholders as well as the international scientific community and foreign nations who are dealing with similar issues.

An Interdepartmental Working Group has been established to provide scientific and technical support to the project initiated to identify past chemical and biological warfare agents disposal sites and to ascertain any health or environmental risks these sites may pose. The National Authority participates in this Interdepartmental Working Group. We anticipate that any future international cooperation on this matter would be undertaken in this context

Thank you for your interest in this matter. I trust this information is of assistance to you.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs]

Bill Graham

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Minister’s Response: Health Canada

August 13, 2002

Mr. Myles Kehoe
Box 628, Margaree Forks
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
B0E 2A0

Dear Mr. Kehoe:

Further to my acknowledgement letter of April 25, 2002, and in accordance with the requirements of section 22 of the Auditor General Act, I am pleased to provide you with Health Canada’s response to questions 4, 5 and 10, raised in the petition you submitted in relation to the ocean dumpsites of chemical warfare agents located off the coast of Atlantic Canada. Separate responses to the remaining questions will be provided by other departments.

I hope that my department’s response will help alleviate some of your concerns.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by A. Anne McLellan, Minister of Health]

A. Anne McLellan


Office of the Auditor General and the
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Health Canada’s Response to Environmental Petition 50

Health Canada has been requested by the Office of the Auditor General to respond to questions 4, 5 and 10 raised in Petition 50 as they pertain to our mandate and responsibility.

Question 4

How are these military dumps affecting our health and the health of the life in the sea off Atlantic Canada? (Fisheries scientists seem unable to account for disappearing fish stocks and the failure for recovery in the absence of commercial fishing activity.) Has the federal government conducted research to determine whether the dumpsites containing chemical warfare agents might be contributing to continuing problems with fish stocks? If not, is the Canadian government prepared to undertake such research and co-operate with other nations facing a similar dilemma?

Response to Question 4:

Health Canada is unaware of any human health impacts from dumpsites of chemical warfare agents. Current information on the health status of Canadians does not indicate a problem exists now. The Department is providing expertise to the Department of National Defence’s Warfare Agent Disposal Working Group to assess the human health risks at each of the sites. However, Health Canada cannot evaluate the health risk until it receives additional information on each dumpsite regarding the agents present and their exposure pathways (ingestion, dermal contact, inhalation). As well, the risk will differ between various populations—fishers versus general public (both are fish and sea food consumers but the fishers are also potentially exposed to physical contact with the agents). The issues regarding life in the sea or fish stocks lie outside Health Canada’s mandate.

Question 5

What are the effects on the food chain and ultimately human health once these chemical weapons stores are disturbed? Has their presence in areas open to commercial ground-fishing and oil and gas exploration been affecting our health or the health of fishermen in Atlantic or other regions where known ocean dumpsites containing mustard gas and other agents have been “disposed of?” (It is important to remember that dragger fishermen may not be aware of the hazards lurking on the bottom of the ocean because many or most of these sites are uncharted.)

Response to Question 5:

The Food Directorate of Health Canada conducts assessments of potential risks to human health resulting from the presence of chemical contaminants in the food supply as part of its mission to protect and improve the health of Canadians through science-based policies and programs relating to safe and nutritious food.

These risk assessments consider several aspects, starting with the nature of the agent involved (Is it toxic? To what degree?); the exposure to the agent (Are Canadians consuming the agent?); and the integration of all relevant material (What is the likelihood of exposed Canadians having an adverse health impact?) Risk assessments require extensive high-quality scientific information.

In this particular situation, the potential effect on the food chain is unknown. Neither current information on the health status of Canadians, nor current information on food contaminants, indicate a problem exists now.

In this regard, Health Canada will continue to work with other federal government departments, including the Department of National Defence, Environment Canada and others as needed, through initiatives such as the Warfare Agent Disposal Working Group, to ensure that these or other environmental contaminants do not pose a risk to human health.

Question 10

The government needs to develop an action plan to deal with these sites over the long-term. Remediation and clean-up may be an option. (Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans should be involved.)

Response to Question 10:

Health Canada will continue to work with other federal government departments, including the Department of National Defence and Environment Canada, through initiatives such as the Warfare Agent Disposal Working Group. The Department of National Defence is the lead federal department on the initiative.

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Minister’s Response: National Defence

August 16, 2002

Mr. Myles Kehoe
P.O. Box 628
Margaree Forks
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
B0E 2A0

Dear Mr. Kehoe:

This letter is in response to your petition, received by the Department of National Defence (DND) on April 15, 2002, concerning historical ocean disposal sites of chemical and biological warfare agents off the Atlantic coast of Canada, and made under section 22 of the Auditor General Act (Environmental Petition #50).

The Department has initiated a project that, in addition to identifying past chemical and biological (CB) warfare agents and CB munitions disposal sites within Canadian jurisdiction, will ascertain the risks these substances may pose to human health and the environment. An Interdepartmental Working Group comprising representatives from DND, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Environment Canada, Health Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Natural Resources Canada has been established to provide technical and scientific support to the project.

The initial goal of the project is to collect and compile data related to the location and nature of the CB warfare agents and CB munitions disposal sites. The Department can now confirm the existence and location of one historical mustard gas disposal site and several old munitions disposal sites in Canadian waters. The conditions at these sites, including the types and quantities of materials present, will be determined as the project progresses. The locations and geographical dimensions of the identified sites will be provided to the Canadian Hydrographic Service, the agency responsible for civilian nautical charts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. However, security and safety considerations could preclude the release of the exact locations due to the materials that may be present at these sites. These concerns are meant to reduce the potential for illicit recovery and use of disposed materials or for curiosity seekers to unnecessarily endanger themselves.

The second project objective is to ascertain the site-specific risks that CB warfare agents and CB munitions may pose at each disposal location. As each site is identified, a risk assessment will be undertaken, with an emphasis on the risks posed to human health and the environment. The possible impacts on oil and gas exploration operations will be reviewed with the agencies responsible for these activities. Later, each site will be surveyed. The survey will include the collection of environmental samples, where possible, to validate the results of the risk assessments. Historical disposal sites will then be prioritized, based on the risk assessments, for the development and implementation of site-specific action plans.

The project will produce a data base of all historical disposal sites for CB warfare agents and CB munitions, as well as action plans for any clean-up work that may be necessary. The requirement for exclusion zones around these sites to ensure public safety will be reviewed with the authorities having jurisdiction.

DND in collaboration with other governmental departments is proactively dealing with the issues relating to the disposal of CB warfare agents and CB munitions. I am advised that a letter was sent to the Public Review Commission on the effects of potential oil and gas exploration within Exploration Licences 2364, 2365 and 2368. The letter offered to provide information related to ocean disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions in the areas of these licences. Liaison has also been established with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board to supply project information to be used in the granting of oil and gas exploration permits. The Department will continue to foster communications with all stakeholders during the course of the project.

Finally, the Office of the Auditor General has requested that DND respond to certain questions and recommendations raised in your petition, in accordance with the requirements of the Auditor General Act, which were designated to be within the purview of the Department. Please refer to the enclosed sheets.

Thank you for your interest in this matter. I appreciate your concerns and trust this information is of assistance.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by John McCallum, Minister of National Defence]

The Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P.


Response to Questions and Recommendations (Environmental Petition No. 50)

1. How will the proposed oil and gas exploration activities affect the ocean dumpsites of chemical (and biological) weapons (especially where the chemical agents may be encased in bombs or shell casings and may still be viable and reactive)?

The review process for oil and gas exploration projects requires comprehensive surveying of the proposed ocean areas. These surveys may identify specific locations that pose environmental and safety risks, which could include historical ocean disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions, among other materials. The surveys may also allow for a more complete assessment of the risk that exploration activities may pose at these locations.

DND will recommend that all historical disposal sites be excluded from any intrusive activity such as oil and gas exploration, unless it can be determined that such activities can be carried out in an environmentally safe manner. An assessment will be made of the potential impacts that may result from oil and gas exploration as each historical disposal site of CB warfare agents and CB munitions is identified and characterized during the project. It is difficult to accurately assess the impact of oil and gas exploration activities on these locations until the condition of historical ocean disposal sites and of their materials is fully understood.

The results of these historical disposal site investigations will be shared with the appropriate governmental departments and agencies, as well as the reviewing authorities for oil and gas exploration projects in Atlantic and Pacific Canada, specifically the Canada-Nova Scotia and Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Boards. This will determine whether these sites should be avoided during oil and gas exploration. Liaison with equivalent boards and commissions on the West Coast will be established if the present moratorium on oil and gas exploration in this area is lifted in the future.

2. I request a moratorium on all oil and natural gas exploration in the near shore and offshore areas of Canada’s Atlantic coast, or a boundary similar in size, as was recently achieved by the State of Florida (see newspaper accounts). Time is needed by DND and all departments to study what is in all of the sites.

The institution of a moratorium on oil and gas exploration is under the jurisdiction of the appropriate offshore petroleum board for that area. DND will ensure that all relevant information is provided to these authorities to facilitate their decisions in this regard. As noted in response 1, all relevant information related to the location and nature of historical ocean disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions will be shared with the appropriate governmental departments and agencies, and oil and gas exploration authorities. The assessment of the impacts that oil and gas exploration may have on these sites, as well as whether exclusion zones or other mitigation measures are required, will be reviewed with the authorities having jurisdiction.

3. All existing dumpsites, (military and non-military, charted and uncharted) must be located, mapped and inventoried. Research on the clean up and disposal of the chemicals in question should be conducted by trained professionals of the Canadian Forces. Open-ended funding must be provided to the Canadian Forces to study and resolve this complex problem in conjunction with other federal departments.

All historical ocean disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions will be identified, surveyed, assessed for risk to human health and the environment, and prioritized for subsequent clean-up, if required, under this project. Another project objective is to collect and compile scientific research regarding the disposal of CB warfare agents and CB munitions in the marine environment. Research activities will be guided by the Interdepartmental Working Group composed of scientific, technical, policy and communications experts, and will be used to support risk assessments. All pertinent project information, including the locations and dimensions of ocean disposal sites for civilian nautical charts, will be shared with the appropriate federal departments and organizations.

Concurrent with the work previously discussed, the Department has initiated a second project that will focus solely on historical ocean disposal sites of conventional munitions, including shipwrecks. Any information related to historical civilian ocean disposal sites will be referred to other members of the Interdepartmental Working Group.

DND has allocated initial funding for both projects under its new Corporate Environmental Program. Specific funding levels will be requested for the implementation of any remedial action that may be required as the project progresses and its scope is more accurately defined.

4. How are these military dumps affecting our health and the health of the fife in the sea off Atlantic Canada? Fisheries scientists seem unable to account for the disappearing fish stocks and the failure for recovery in the absence of commercial fishing activity. Has the federal government conducted research to determine whether the dumpsites containing chemical warfare agents might be contributing to continuing problems with fish stocks? If not, is the Canadian government prepared to undertake such research and co-operate with other nations facing a similar dilemma?

DND has conducted no studies concerning the effects of mustard gas on the marine environment of Atlantic Canada because foreign research indicates no significant impacts of mustard gas to the marine environment. For example, large quantities of mustard gas and other chemical warfare agents were disposed of in the Baltic Sea at the end of the Second World War. A lot of research has been conducted to ascertain the effects of these materials on the environment. The Helsinki Commission has determined that chemical munitions disposed of in the Baltic Sea are not causing any appreciable harm to the marine environment. The Commission’s findings are based on research available on the Web site http://www.helcom.fi/environment/chemicalmunitions.html

Denmark has also reported tests in which fish were exposed to mustard gas in an aquarium, with the agent either dissolved in the water or supplied as lumps of viscous material at the bottom of the aquarium. From these tests, it was determined that mustard gas has no significant effect on fish, and that fish probably do not bioaccumulate the agent.
(Fate and effects of dumped chemical warfare agents, submitted by Denmark, HELCOM CHEMU 1/5, 7 Apr 1993. Cited in T. Stock, “Sea-Dumped Chemical Weapons and the Chemical Weapons Convention”. In A.V. Kafka (ed.), Sea-Dumped Chemical Weapons: Aspects, Problems and Solutions, Kluwer, Boston, 1996, pp. 49-66; see p. 59).

Regardless of the preceding, environmental risks will be assessed at each historical ocean disposal site of CB warfare agents and CB munitions identified by the project. An Interdepartmental Working Group will provide scientific and technical support to the project, as mentioned previously. The information provided from this work will be shared with stakeholders, as well as the international scientific community and foreign nations who are dealing with similar issues.

6. All dumpsites must be declared exclusion zones for commercial ground fishing (dragging, etc.) with buffer zones of at least five miles to take into account drift. Experts on current flow may suggest greater buffer zones and I would respect their cautious approach.

At this point there is insufficient information on the exact condition of historical ocean disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions to agree or to disagree with this recommendation. DND will collaborate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on this issue as the latter is the responsible agency for commercial ground fishing.

7. For reasons of national security and public health, no one should have access to these dumpsites without the permission of the Canadian Forces (it must be stressed that these chemical warfare agents may still be 100 percent viable after 50 years on the ocean floor).

Once a historical ocean disposal site has been verified to contain CB warfare agents or CB munitions, there is the possibility that access will be restricted until any mitigation measures that may be required are completed. DND will work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to facilitate this measure as necessary. Security and safety considerations could preclude the release of the exact site locations, as previously discussed.

8. All military and industrial dumpsites should be included on Canadian Hydrographic Service marine charts. These charts should be revised frequently to reflect new information, as it becomes available.

As stated in response 1, all pertinent information including the locations and dimensions of historical military ocean disposal sites for civilian nautical charts will be shared with relevant stakeholders. The Department must consider the security and safety implications of releasing the exact location of these historical ocean disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions. Although it may not be appropriate to fully disclose the specific locations of these sites, the establishment of larger exclusion zones around these sites may be a consideration.

Since former ocean disposal sites of industrial materials are not under the purview of DND, all information concerning industrial disposal sites will be forwarded to other members of the Interdepartmental Working Group.

9. Military charts in Canadian, British and American archives should be de-classified.

The declassification of both military charts and files reviewed during this project will be discussed with the appropriate departmental and interdepartmental personnel responsible for security issues. DND will collect and compile information related to the location and the condition of CB warfare agents and CB munitions disposal sites. Military charts held within Canada will be reviewed as part of these activities. Liaison with foreign governmental and military organizations will also be made to acquire any information, including military charts, pertaining to the past disposal of CB warfare agents and CB munitions in Canada.

10. The government needs to develop an action plan to deal with these sites over the long-term. Remediation and clean-up may be an option. Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans should be involved.

One of the key project goals is to create an action plan for historical disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions, based on the risks these materials pose to human health and the environment. Remediation or clean-up, as well as other mitigation measures at these sites, will be considered as options in the action plan. Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are part of the Interdepartmental Working Group established under this project. Both organizations have agreed to provide technical, scientific, policy and regulatory guidance during this process.

11. Information on research, inventory and dumpsite remediation needs to be shared with members of the general public.

DND is committed to ensuring that information collected under this project is shared with the public, media and other interested parties. However, security and safety issues related to the disclosure of the location of historical disposal sites of CB warfare agents and CB munitions may preclude the public release of some of this information.

13. Under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Canada is a signatory, governments are mandated to “clean up contaminated sites of chemical weapons in an environmentally responsible and verifiable manner”. How is Canada ensuring that it is fulfilling this commitment in relation to these underwater marine dumpsites?

The Canadian National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade advises that, according to the relevant provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that came into effect on April 29, 1997, any chemical weapons disposed at sea before January 1,1985, shall not be declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (Article III, paragraph 2) nor destroyed in accordance with the Verification Annex of the CWC (Article IV, paragraph 17). The relevant provisions of the CWC leave it to the discretion of the concerned State Party (that is, the Canadian government) on how to deal with pre-1985 ocean-disposed chemical weapons. As DND is committed to a program of environmental stewardship, pollution prevention and protection of the natural environment, where any chemical weapons or biological warfare agents have been disposed in the ocean prior to 1985 and are determined to pose a risk to human health and the environment, the Department will act as a responsible environmental steward by managing or eliminating these risks, to the extent possible.

14. Should the disturbance of the contents of these dumpsites by oil / gas exploration, production or transmission lead to a monumental ecological disaster, where or with whom will the responsibility rest? The possible health effects will rest with us all and ocean-based life.

DND shares your concerns in this regard and will work proactively with the Interdepartmental Working Group to develop appropriate contingency plans to reduce the risk of and safeguard against such incidents.

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Minister’s Response: Natural Resources Canada

August 7, 2002

Mr. Myles Kehoe
Box 628
Margaree Forks
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
B0E 2A0

Dear Mr. Kehoe:

This letter is in response to your petition of March 28, 2002, submitted under Section 22 of the Auditor General’s Act, concerning the disposal of warfare agents in Atlantic Canada waters. Ms. Johanne Gélinas, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, forwarded the petition to my office on April 8, 2002.

Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) principal mandate is the sustainable development of Canada’s natural resources. These resources include those found on and below the ocean floor. As a result, NRCan is working closely with the Department of National Defence (DND) and a number of other government departments on the identification and assessment of ocean disposal sites of chemical and biological warfare agents off the coast of Atlantic Canada.

My department’s Earth Sciences Sector (ESS) has significant experience in offshore science and technology operations, utilising seismic sound sources for its research, as well as high-resolution mapping tools to scan and map the seafloor. ESS has also been involved in several operations to take samples from the seafloor and analyse those for contaminants (e.g., Halifax Harbour, Irving Whale, and DEW lines projects). Part of our ongoing research relates to the stability of the seafloor, as this is one of the key potential hazards for offshore development. A related research area is a joint project with Environment Canada (EC) to investigate the stability of dumped sediments under wave, current and storm conditions; the research involves long term monitoring (over periods of several years) of areas where those sediments have been dumped.

With regard to the specific questions included in your petition, the Commissioner requested that my department provide written responses to questions 1, 2, 3, 7, 10 and 14.

  1. How will the proposed oil and gas exploration activities affect the ocean dumpsites of chemical (and biological) weapons (especially where the chemical agents may be encased in bombs or shell casings and may still be viable and reactive)?

In the offshore, the primary exploration tool used to locate potential oil or gas-bearing structures below the seafloor is the seismic survey. This is generally undertaken by or for the company owning the rights to explore for oil and gas in that particular area. But, in its very early stages, this can be done by a government or academic research organization as part of a research program to establish the overall oil and gas potential of the region. As a condition of drilling an exploratory well, there is a requirement to establish the potential hazards in the area prior to commencing drilling. This is done through a site survey to map in detail the seafloor around the well site (this is a very localised survey, done with high resolution tools that map the seafloor with a horizontal resolution of less than 50 cm, depending somewhat on the water depths). These site surveys will also be required for any development activity such as pipelines or the construction of bottom found structures.

ESS has been involved in many seismic surveys and there is no evidence that the sound waves used in these surveys in any way disturb the seafloor, or that structures on the seafloor are affected by the sound. There remains an ongoing debate as to the effect of the sound on species living in the oceans. However, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has clear guidelines regarding the permissible level of seismic sound and the steps one needs to follow to obtain the permissions necessary to use higher levels of seismic sound.

The site surveys are completed prior to drilling. The equipment used has sufficient resolution to detect boulders on the seafloor and, therefore, will be able to detect dumped material. The appropriate regulatory agency, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), is directly involved in this part of the process.

  1. I request a moratorium on all oil and natural gas exploration in the near shore and offshore areas of Canada’s Atlantic coast, or a boundary similar in size to that recently achieved by the State of Florida. Time is needed by DND and all departments to study what is in all of these sites.

Cape Breton Island is the major area in Nova Scotia where exploration licences are located near shore, and the subject of unmapped disposal sites for warfare agents was raised at public hearings on the effects of oil and gas exploration offshore Cape Breton held earlier this year. As Minister of NRCan, my counterpart in Nova Scotia and I have instructed the CNSOPB to review the processes by which it issues Exploration Licences to ensure that any and all concerns raised in the public review process are given full consideration. In the meantime, I am in the process of studying the outcomes of the public hearings in order to determine appropriate next steps.

  1. All existing dumpsites (military, non-military, charted and uncharted) must be located, mapped and inventoried. Research on the clean-up and disposal of the chemicals in question should be conducted by trained professionals of the Canadian Armed Forces. Open ended funding must be provided to the Armed Forces to study and resolve this complex problem in conjunction with other federal departments.

DND has initiated a project to identify and locate chemical and biological warfare agents and munitions disposal sites within Canadian jurisdiction and to ascertain the risks these substances may pose to human health and the environment. NRCan is a member of the Interdepartmental Working Group that has been established to provide scientific and technical support to the project. NRCan, through ESS, has the expertise to assist DND in determining the location of ocean dumpsites and mapping the information. As well, NRCan could assist if requested by DND in analysing possible clean up and remediation activities. NRCan will work closely with DND and the other members of the Interdepartmental Working Group to ensure that scientific and technical expertise is made available for the project.

  1. For reasons of national security and public health, no one should have access to these dumpsites without the permission of the Canadian Armed Forces (it must be stressed that these chemical warfare agents may still be 100 percent viable after 50 years on the ocean floor).

I will defer a response to the issues of national security and public health to my cabinet colleagues, the Honourable John McCallum and the Honourable Anne McLellan respectively.

In providing scientific and technical assistance to the DND-led project, NRCan officials will follow the established guidelines and procedures for surveying areas in and around identified or potential dumpsites.

  1. The Government needs to develop an action plan to deal with these sites over the long-term. Remediation and clean-up may be an option. EC and Fisheries and Oceans should be involved.

NRCan is a member of the Interdepartmental Working Group that has been established to support the DND-led project on warfare agents and munitions disposal sites. EC and Fisheries and Oceans are also active participants. NRCan will play an active role in the process and provide scientific and technical support to the project. Once the project has been concluded, the disposal sites identified and risk assessments completed, NRCan will participate in the development of an action plan to deal with the identified sites over the long-term.

  1. Should the disturbance of the contents of these dumpsites by oil/gas exploration, production of transmission lead to a monumental ecological disaster, where or with whom will the responsibility rest? The possible health effects will rest with us all and ocean-based life.

I share your concern about the possible human health and environmental repercussions of the accidental disturbance of warfare agents and munitions located in seafloor dumpsites. NRCan is working cooperatively with DND and other federal government departments to minimize the potential risk posed by these dumpsites. The need to develop contingency plans to safeguard against such incidents will be addressed by the Interdepartmental Working Group.

My department will continue to work with DND and the other members of the Interdepartmental Working Group to provide the DND-led project with scientific and technical support.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Herb Dhaliwal, Minister of Natural Resources]

The Honourable Herb Dhaliwal, P.C., M.P.

http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/pet_050A_e_28755.html

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