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Environmental effects of ammunition, explosives and explosions in maritime environment

Organisation: Finnish Defence Forces

Time: 10/1/2010 – 8/30/2011



The Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) will conduct research on the most prominent physico-chemical and ecological environmental effects of ammunition and detonations of war-time mines and underwater detonations in maritime environment.

The research will be implemented as a two-phase study.

In the first part, the local environmental effects of heavy weapons shooting and unexploded ordnance in the sea will be studied. The project is commissioned by the Defence Command Finland. The study will be conducted in the shooting and training area of Lohtaja, in Northern Ostrobothnia. The study was preceded by a background study which included a review of historical information regarding the areas to be studied, mapping of the current environmental conditions, creating a mathematical flow model of the sea bed to prognosticate sediment erosion, drifting and accumulation as well as sonar casting of the sea bed to double-check the validity of the model. Simultaneously the quantity of unexploded ordnance and metal scrap on the sea bed was evaluated. The sediments in the areas selected as most strained based on the background study will be analyzed for metals, oils, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, TBT and explosives including their metabolites and additives as well as for the quality and quantity of benthos. In addition, biotests to assess the ecotoxicity of the sediments will be conducted on four biota groups. The results will form the basis for a detailed evaluation of risks to health and to the environment.

In the second part, the imminent effects of underwater explosions of war-time mines will be studied in the Gulf of Finland, in the vicinity of the city of Hanko. The study is performed by the Finnish Navy and co-funded by the Defence Command Finland. The project will be implemented in cooperation with the University of Turku and the Turku University of Applied Sciences. For the study, three pre-located mines were exploded under controlled circumstances.

The study includes sonar scanning of the seabed surrounding each mine before and after the explosion to measure the mechanical impact area of the blast and in-situ monitoring of physico-chemical effects such as opacity, pH, conductivity (salinity), temperature and oxygen saturation throughout the whole depth-profile. The results are expected to be ready in spring 2011.

The results will be evaluated by the FDF for potential need for further studies.

The results will be made public on the web site of the FDF. In addition, an event to share the information with other armed forces in the Baltic Sea area and the public will be arranged.

Objective of the Commitment:
The results will provide information to be used to ensure sustainable planning of ammunition shooting at the sea and sustainable implementation of under-water explosions of WW II naval mines and thus help to fulfill the precautinary principle.