Environmental Concerns

A container with VX agent-filled M55 Rockets being sealed for a short distance transportation.
A container with VX agent-filled M55 Rockets being sealed for a short distance transportation.

Protection of human health and perseveration of the environment is one of the primary obligations for all States Parties. According to the provisions of the CWC, States Parties have to maintain the highest standards where the safety of the public and the protection of the environment are concerned during chemical weapons transportation, sampling, storage as well as during destruction operations of chemical weapons and former productions facilities.

 

 

In this section:

Concerns

  • The possible contamination of land and water due to the deterioration of chemical weapons that have been dumped at sea prior to 1985 or buried prior to 1977. Although the Convention does not apply to such munitions (Article IV, paragraph 17), this environmental concern may require the recovery and disposal of such obsolete munitions.
  • The degradation and ageing of stockpiled chemical agents and munitions in storage for over half a century. Handling and transporting munitions and containers from the storage area to the destruction facility has to be conducted in compliance with the strictest safety measures to prevent any accidental release of chemical agents.
  • There are also inherent risks associated with normal destruction operations, although, in most cases, they are substantially reduced by physical control safeguards (appropriate design and equipment) within the destruction facilities. There is a growing public concern on this issue regarding both the risk involved in a direct exposure, as well as the long term low level exposure to agents, disposal and degradation products.

Environmental Standards

The procedure followed to fulfil these obligations must comply with national safety and environmental standards. These national standards are declared as part of the general plan for destruction submitted by the States Parties to the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW.

In addition, States Parties are required to obtain the necessary environmental permits for each chemical weapons destruction facility prior to the commencement of the facility’s operation. The verification measures of the Organisation will not aim at evaluating national standards or monitoring compliance with national standards. Monitoring compliance remains the responsibility of the State Party. However, the declaration of the national standards is expected to contribute to the implementation of the obligation of the States Parties to safeguard the neighbouring population, the inspection personnel and the environment during any operations involving chemical weapons.

Destruction Methods

Each State Party can determine how to destroy its chemical weapons, with the exception of the prohibited measures of sea dumping, land burial and open-pit burning, which are banned for ecological reasons.

The selected destruction technology should minimise the risk of agent release during storage, transportation and disposal operations, as well as reducing to a minimum the public health and environmental impact from process effluents.

The destruction method adopted should achieve proper safety and environmental standards. Effluent streams resulting from all destruction.

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Did You Know?

Historically, chemical weapons have been disposed of by land burial, open pit burning, explosion and sea dumping.

Today, such disposal options are prohibit under the Chemical Weapons Convention.