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Dumpsites of munitions: Integrated Science Approach to Risk and Management

Acronym: DISARM
Period: January 2020 till December 2023
Status: In Progress

Institutes (9)  Top 
  • Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ), more, partner
  • Koninklijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen; Operationele Directie Natuurlijk Milieu (OD Natuur), more, partner
  • Antwerp Maritime Academy (HZS), more, partner
  • Universiteit Gent; Faculteit Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen; Vakgroep Biotechnologie; Centrum voor Microbiële Ecologie en Technologie (CMET), more, partner
  • Universiteit Antwerpen; Faculteit Wetenschappen; Departement Biologie; Onderzoeksgroep Systemisch Fysiologisch en Ecotoxicologisch Onderzoek (SPHERE), more, partner
  • Royal Military Academy (RMA), more, partner
  • Universiteit Gent; Faculteit Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen; Vakgroep Omgeving; Laboratory of Hydrology and water management, more, partner
  • Universiteit Gent; Faculteit Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen; Vakgroep Dierwetenschappen en Aquatische Ecologie; Laboratorium voor Milieutoxicologie en Aquatische Ecologie (GhEnToxLab), more, partner
  • Vlaamse overheid; Beleidsdomein Economie, Wetenschap en Innovatie; Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen (FWO), more, sponsor

The Paardenmarktis one of the many munition dumpsites in our oceans. A few m below the seafloor, ca. 35.000 tons of WW1 chemical and conventional munition are buried off the coast of Knokke-Heist. The present scientific knowledge is insufficient to make any reliable judgement on the state of the site. The DISARM project (2020-2023) aims to address the knowledge gaps, but will go an important step further to develop an integrated scientific approach to support risk assessment and management of marine chemical munition dumpsites worldwide, using the Paardenmarkt munition dumpsite as a challenging case study.A thorough characterisation of the present state of the dumpsite is the project start. Novel technologies will be used to determine the precise burial depth, take sediment samples close to the munition, and assess the freshwater flux at the site. Chemical warfare agents (CWA), explosives and their degradation products will be analysed with new methodologies, advancing detection limits. The physical state of the shells will be evaluated through an innovative combination of experimental analyses and integrated modelling of different corrosion processes. Novel in-situ passive sampling devices will analyse a time-integrated spatial distribution of the water exchangeable fraction of munition-related chemical compounds. This will be related to bioaccumulation and ecotoxicity of these compounds in laboratory bio-assays.Dynamic modelling of chemical fate and effects on humans and the environment will result in a chemical risk assessment. Dedicated experiments and models will evaluate the explosion risk of the aged compounds in the munition. Collaborating microbial communities will be constructed to break down key hazardous chemicals through smart inoculation. Finally, new technologies for monitoring and management will be evaluated together with key players in the field.

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