Concern: Syrian Chemical Weapons' Effect on Sea

800 tons of chemicals to be dumped by US forces into the Mediterranean at the end of the month; expert warns it might damage ecology.

Tova Dvorin ,

UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria

Experts are concerned over the long-term effects that Syria's chemical weapons might have on the Mediterranean sea, Maariv reported Wednesday. US forces will be dumping over 800 tons of toxins into the Sea at the end of the month. 

Professor Moshe Kol, Organic Chemistry Professor at Tel Aviv University, explained that the effects of the dissemination of Sarin nerve gas may have long-lasting effects on the sea's natural ecology. 

"Sarin is composed of phosphorus and oxygen and the process of decomposition of the compound ultimately leaves phosphoric acid - which is, incidentally , an ingredient in Coca -Cola ," explains Professor Kol. "They'll probably throw it into the Mediterranean. Other materials involved in the decomposition process include  sodium hypochlorite , which is basically bleach and sodium hydroxide , which is actually cleaner - caustic soda. Mustard gas will be dissolved in the process of hydrolysis and oxidation."

"I guess the decomposition process will end in the sea," Kol stated. "What is worrying is the fact that the materials may kill the fish at the dumping site," he added, emphasizing that this could dissipate "chemical byproducts over a large area" and maximize the environmental damage. 

AFP notes that according to some experts, nerve gases such as sarin are often better destroyed through incineration. In this case, however, it will be destroyed via hydrolysis, in which agents, like detergents, are used to neutralize chemicals such as mustard gas and sulphur, resulting in liquid waste known as effluent.

Before reaching the ship the chemical weapons will be transferred to the Latakia port, and the weapons will be loaded straight from there. The operation is run by the international Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who has reportedly declared that the operation will be environmentally safe, despite objections. 

Destruction at sea was deemed necessary after no country agreed to carry out the act on its territory or territorial waters. The organization turned to 190 its members and asked for donations for the operation. India was first announced Tuesday it would donate 1 million dollars.

The process will be carried out by the MV Cape Ray, which is some 198 meters long and can hold 91,000 tons. The crew which will include 15 civilians, who will undergo special training before being deployed. 

The ship will consist of two portable titanium reactors, where the chemical weapons will be deconstructed and its fundamental elements neutralized. 800 tons of weapons total will be destroyed; the total amount of chemical weapons estimated to be held by Syrian President Bashar Assad is about 1300 tons. 

The operation will start at the end of the month and the last remaining chemical weapons will be destroyed after February 5.