Dáil Éireann - Volume 446 - 02 November, 1994

Written Answers. - Chemical Weapons Dumps.

47. Mr. Barrett asked the Minister for the Marine the steps, if any, he intends taking to deal with the potential hazard to the health of the communities living along the west and southwest coasts as a result of two dumps of chemical weapons, including nerve and mustard gas, seized from the Nazis at the end of the Second World War and dumped by the British Navy between 1945 and 1957 off the Atlantic shelf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2291/94]

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Andrews): I understand that the dumping of chemical munitions in the North Atlantic by the UK authorities between 1945 and 1957 first came into the public [1496] domain in 1986. Details furnished by the UK authorities at that time showed the nearest dump site to be approximately 65 miles off the Donegal coast at a depth of 3,000 feet of water. The weapons were disposed of by scuttling loaded ships in depths of water from 3,000 down to 8,000 feet.

Scientific assessments then and now on foot of the renewed concerns expressed in recent weeks, indicate that, given the properties of the chemicals (being either quickly soluble in, or heavier than, water), the sea depth at which they were dumped and the considerable number of years which have elapsed, the weapons are not considered to pose a hazard to the health or fishing activities of our coastal communities.