It has long been known that, over the years, toxic substances have been leaking from old sea-dumped munitions (UW-UXO) and unexploded ordnance (UXO) along the coasts and lands of Vieques and Culebra islands, just east of Puerto Rico. The results of an assessment of sea-dumped chemicals in that region will be compared to the findings of a similar study in the Baltic Sea. Conclusions will be drawn about the situation in both places, including what types of ammunition and compounds had been dumped and fired. This is the second phase of the project, responding to the recommendations of phase 1 which proposed a Munitions Registry and the use of scientific computer modelling to assess the extent and nature of the legacy from past military activity along both Vieques and the Baltic Sea. Due to the risk and uncertainty involved, great care is being taken to understand exactly how to approach this problem.
A fact-finding mission in October 2013 was followed by visits to the National Archives in Washington DC to collect relevant information. By closing an important gap in understanding what military activities were carried out on the coasts of Vieques and the Baltic Sea, the project seeks to support the rights of local populations to know the potential health impacts of those activities and, subsequently, to help them get adequate protection measures put in place. There is heightened awareness amongst experts in Europe and the United States about the long-term environmental dangers of sea-dumped chemical weapons, and the ESS Programme has been instrumental in organizing two United Nations resolutions thereon in 2010 and 2013.