Q1. What do we know about the munitions at ordnance reef?
The initial Ordnance Reef mapping (2002) was limited to the depth of the Navy EOD units dive capabilities and the time available to identify the full extent of the dump site. The depth of the study was confined to a maximum depth (approximately 200 feet with predictions made out to 300 feet. The extent of the DMM ranged in depths from 24 feet to the maximum depth of study. The condition of the DMM proved difficult as these munitions are heavily corroded and in many cases are encumbered by marine growth. As a result, most munitions could only be identified by size and type and whether or not the munitions had been discarded or if they were Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).
Q2. What risk do the munitions pose?
For recreation users, due to depth and munitions conditions the risks are considered minimal as long as they are not disturbed or handled in any way. If divers come across these munitions, remember the 3R’s (Recognize, Retreat and Report). Observation and testing of the surrounding area suggests that little or no contamination of the Ordnance Reef area is derived from DMM. Data results to date indicate, water column profiles at all sites show no unusual characteristics in the biochemistry, no energetic found in any water samples, no SVOCs found in seawater samples, initial review of energetic data in sediment does not raise any “red flags”, the metal analyses is still ongoing and biota samples have been stored until the MDL study is completed and final EPA approval.
Q3. Does it make sense to leave the munitions in place?
In some cases DMM will be left in place if the removal of the munitions will cause more damage to the environment than leaving it in place. In many cases these munitions have become an anchor for habitat’s or endangered corals and should be left alone. Munitions deeper than 120 feet will also be left behind, the risk to fisherman/SCUBA divers and other recreational users of the area are more likely come into contact with the munitions at 120 feet or less.
Q4. Why are there munitions in the ocean?
Sea disposal of excess, unserviceable and captured enemy DMM was an accepted international practice up until the 1970s. The safe and cost effective recovery and disposal of DMM has always posed a significant Challenge.
Q5. Are the munitions dangerous?
All DMM should be considered dangerous, with no exceptions. Remember the 3R’s of Explosives Safety (Recognize, Retreat and Report) and let only trained personnel handle DMM.
Q6. What is being done to mitigate the danger?
DOD developed an Unexploded Ordnance Safety Education Program to inform the public about the risk associated with DMM and the action to take should they encounter these munitions.