Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Christian Science Monitor reports that over 200 million pounds of unexploded bombs dumped in the Gulf of Mexico by the US government after World War Two pose a significant risk to offshore drilling. The US designated disposal areas for unexploded ordnance, known as UXO, off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico but nearly 70 years after the areas were created, no one knows exactly how much was dumped, or where the weapons are, or whether they present a danger to humans or marine life. "These bombs are a threat today and no one knows how to deal with the situation," says William Bryant, a Texas A&M University professor of oceanography. "If chemical agents are leaking from some of them, that's a real problem. If many of them are still capable of exploding, that's another big problem." As technological advances allow oil companies to push deeper into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, these forgotten hazards pose a threat as the industry picks up the pace of offshore drilling. Last year, BP shut its key Forties crude pipeline in the North Sea for five days while it removed a 13-foot unexploded German mine found resting next to the pipeline that transports up to 40 percent of the UK's oil production and in 2001, BP and Shell found the wreckage of the U-166, a German World War II submarine, 45 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River during an underwater survey for a pipeline needed to transport natural gas to shore. Bryant says he has come across 500-pound bombs about 60 miles off the Texas coast and other ordnance 100 miles offshore, outside designated zones and at least one Gulf pipeline was laid across a chemical weapon dump site south of the mouth of the Mississippi River. "We would like to do a survey to be able to say if (this material) is harmful or not," says Bryant. "The condition of these barrels is deteriorating, so does it affect anything or not? We ought to know.""
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