Clean Ocean Action

Clean Ocean Advocate, January 2006

Congratulations to Environmental Advocate, Jacqueline Royce

     NJDEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell honored environmental leaders at a ceremony in November.  Awards are given to individuals, businesses, and communities that contributed to environmental protection in NJ.  Jacqueline Royce, Ph.D. of Atlantic Highlands was this year’s Environmental Stewardship Winner.  Dr. Royce created the Atlantic Highlands Environmental Commission in 1998, served as its Vice Chair, and co-authored “Our Town’s Environment,” the basic inventory needed for all future efforts.  Congratulations, Jacqueline!

Chemical Weapons Dumped Off NJ’s Coast

     The US Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines, and rockets, and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste, either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.  These weapons virtually ring the country’s coast.  The Army has examined only a few of its 26 dump zones and none in the past 30 years, and records are sketchy, missing, or were destroyed.  Army cannot say exactly where all the weapons were dumped from World War II to 1970 and, furthermore, the Army has not reviewed World War I-era records, when ocean dumping of chemical weapons was common.

     In the summer of 2004, a clam-dredging operation off New Jersey pulled up an old artillery shell.  The long-submerged World War I-era explosive was filled with a black tar-like substance.  Three bomb disposal technicians from Dover Air Force Base, DE, who were brought in to dismantle it, and were injured from exposure to mustard gas.  The shell was filled with mustard gas in solid form and was pulled up with clams in relatively shallow water only 20 miles off Atlantic City.  In fact, 1985 charts from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) identify numerous areas where explosives and weapons were disposed in the NY/NJ Bight. 

     When mustard gas is exposed to seawater, it forms a concentrated gel that lasts for at least five years, killing or contaminating sea life.  When released in the ocean, nerve agent lasts up to six weeks, killing every organism it touches before breaking down into its non-lethal chemical components. 

     The Army’s secret ocean-dumping program spanned decades, from 1944 to 1970.  The dumped weapons were deemed to be unneeded surplus.  US Congress banned the practice in 1972.  Three years later, the United States signed an international treaty prohibiting ocean disposal of chemical weapons.

Adapted from Daily Press

Images Identify Oil Slicks in Gulf of Mexico

     With satellite images and digital mapping, SkyTruth observed damage to oil and gas infrastructure and identified oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Katrina (visit for pictures).  SkyTruth is a nonprofit organization that “uses remote sensing and digital mapping to educate the public and policymakers about the environmental consequences of human activities, and to hold corporations and governments to higher standards of accountability around the globe.” 

     SkyTruth identified slicks both large and small: “Based on the extensive slicks…and ongoing small leaks from a few platforms for weeks following the storm, we conservatively estimate that more than 100,000 gallons of oil were released from the offshore platforms and pipelines damaged by Hurricane Katrina.”  The slicks were very thin, implying they were formed by numerous individual leaks spread over a large area.  The images also showed dozens of slicks extending across an area of more than 7,000 square miles.


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