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They are barrels containing materials discarded after the First World War, which were launched into the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and now begin to filter their contents.
The military decisions of a century ago in Europe continue to have repercussions. After the First World War, many armies, although mainly the German army, disposed of a large part of their arsenals of chemical weapons and part of their more obsolete conventional weapons. Chemical weapons were not processed safely. It simply got into barrels, which were launched from boats at the bottom of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.
A century after the end of the First World War, these barrels, damaged, begin to filter their contents to the sea. Several countries are affected, but Belgium is the first to study measures, partly because many of the barrels are close to its coast, less than a kilometre from the important port of Zeebrugge, one of the largest in Europe in commercial terms.
The Belgian idea is to build an artificial island on the place where the barrels are, which contain up to 35,000 tons of chemical weapons in grenades of poisonous gas, to cover them with a thick layer of rock and earth that should contain the leaks. In addition, the artificial island would serve to stop a future rise in sea level caused by global warming.
The deposit went down in history and the Belgians forgot about it until in 1971, during some expansion works of the Zeebrugge port, they began to find the barrels under a layer of three meters of sand. No decision was made beyond creating a follow-up program that controlled that the barrels did not leak.
But they begin to filter their content. That, together with the need to create an artificial barrier to protect the Belgian coast from the future rise in sea level, has led to the idea of creating an artificial island.
The security of that area is essential for the Belgian economy because, in addition to the port of Zeebrugge, the coastal area of that region is the entry and exit point for numerous shipping routes, gas and oil pipelines and refineries and gas terminals.
And the risk of an accident is still present if a ship lost its course and collided with the barrels because, in addition to breaking the barrels and pouring their contents into the sea, it could cause a conventional explosion that would sink or damage the vessel.
The Belgian media remembers that there are more regions of the world’s seas where material was thrown into the sea bottom, but they point out that in the case of Belgium the situation is much more dangerous due to the age of the barrels (a century), its proximity to the coast (less than a kilometre) and the shallow depth of that area of the sea (between five and ten meters). The situation is such that it is forbidden to fish in a certain area in front of Zeebrugge, as well as launch an anchor.
Source: Clarin World