German WWII sunken submarine U-864 contains 67 tonnes of pure metallic mercury. The load of mercury already has leaked 150-300 kg of mercury into the marine environment, and the pollution goes on. Most of the pollution comes from contaminated sea bed from broken mercury canisters that fell out of the submarine during the sinking due to a torpedo that cut the boat in two.
The Norwegian Government, the Department of Transport has the responsibility for the submarine, and after 17 years of producing numerous reports, they set up an expert committee to find a good environmental solution for the submarine. Green Warriors of Norway demands that the committee must have members with practical experience in ship salvaging, subsea operations and pollution in sea waters.
Submarine U-864 on 150 meters depth outside Fedje, Norway, The North Sea. Illustration: Green Warriors of Norway
The report of the expert committee should result in a requirement specification for raising, so that the process does not extend for years. A qualified subsea company in Western Norway should be able to do the salvaging job, with top expertise from the selected subcontractors. It is perfectly possible to compete with the world elite. Green Warriors of Norway want the submarine wreckage to be raised in two large packets, and the seabed cleaned of all the mercury contained in the sediments, and the mercury canisters down in the mud are dug up and salvaged.
From the mercury measurements it appears that most of the 67 tonnes of mercury are still in the steel bottles, and the largest amount is in the cargo keel.
The Norwegian Coastal Administration has not managed to clean up the pollution since they took over responsibility for U-864 in 2003. Since 2010, capping of wreck and seabed was the only solution for the mercury submarine.
Capping is illegal, and must be considered as a deposit
Capping of mercury under sand and rocks is illegal, and is not an option for a long term solution to protect the environment from the mercury that forms into organic methyl mercury and is received in the food chain. The methyl mercury is a toxic nerve poison that follows the fat, and can be found in fat fish, like tuna and farmed salmon.
Green Warriors of Norway is filing the Norwegian Government to ESA (EFTA Surveillance Authority) for pollution from U-864. Read the case here
Facts: It is not allowed to establish a mixed and toxic "sea landfill", covered with pure pulp. Such practice is a direct violation of the EEA Agreement acts. The politicians should be aware that Norway is formally and materially obliged to implement in Norwegian law regulations that are included in the Annex to the EEA Agreement, in the same way as directives. Green Warriors recommend the Norwegian Prime Minister and Minister of Transport to take good note of the following:
* 2017/852 (Mercury Regulation).
* 1999/31 / EC (Landfill Directive).
* 2008/98 / EC (Waste Directive).
* 2000/60 / EC (Water Directive).
"Mercury Regulation 2017/852 / EC". Article 13 permits short-term storage of liquid mercury above ground level (not under water) in strictly regulated premises, until solidification (solid form) of mercury is carried out. Afterwards, mercury can be stored in solid form for long-term storage, but here too, very stringent requirements are laid for storage on land.
"Landfill Directive 1999/31 / EC". Article 5 does not permit the storage of liquid waste or explosives in a landfill. Circular economy is of central importance.
"Waste Directive 1998/98 / EC". The directive regulates the type of landfill, sets requirements for the prevention of environmental pollution, circular economy and controlled closure of landfills. Mixed waste is prohibited, and it is not allowed to cover impure masses with pure masses.
"Water Directive 2000/60/EC". The government's measures and/or permits can only result in improved water quality and not aggravate it.
Capping of the wreck and seabed is removed as an environmental measure for U-864
350,000 tonnes of man-made mercury are in circulation in air, water and soil. 67 tonnes in U-864 can be taken out of these accounts and out of the global mercury cycle. A cover of the wreckage is considered an illegal landfill for mercury in seawater.
Removing mercury bottles from the cargo keel at 150 meters depth is expensive, time-consuming and risky for leaching of mercury into the marine environment. Also, there are many other dangerous materials in the wreckage, including ammunition and torpedoes that also contain mercury. There are also hydraulic oil, compressed air bottles and probably uranium oxide in the cargo. There may also be more mercury stored inside the submarine. Thus, raising mercury from the cargo keel is not relevant as an environmental measure for U-864.
Hull lifting and cleanup is the only alternative to short-term and long-term environmental measures for U-864
Environmentally sound concept is lifting wreck parts with protection against leakage, locating and digging up loose mercury bottles and
digging up contaminated seabed (hotspots). The cargo keel on U-864 is in better condition than the one tested for corrosion by DNV-GL on U-534. U-864 is at an oxygen-poor depth (150 m), compared to U-534 (67 m) and the keel is buried in mud. This means that the keel is like new, and it is very low risk to lift the hull parts.
The Norwegian Coastal Administration has not been able to look for the 300-400 bottles that fell out of the middle part of 1857 total bottles that were in the submarine.
The Coastal Administration has not dug and cut into the keel where the rest of the bottles are stored. The seabed at the keel is not more polluted than the seabed otherwise around the boat. Hotspots / contaminated seabed originated from bottles were destroyed in the torpedo and land on the seabed, and which has been corroding and leaking mercury since 1945. The argument from the Norwegian Coastal Administration on the danger of spreading mercury by digging / suction dredging around the hole parts is unfounded.
Hulls and bottles must be raised and the seabed cleaned.
The submarine cargo keel is in good condition, almost no rusting since 1945. The inner pressure hole is in good condition, and the keel is welded to the pressure hole. The hull is strong enough to be lifted by wires, like the Russian submarine Kursk. This submarine was 10 times heavier than U-864.
The picture shows U-534 which was sunk in 1945 and salvaged outside Denmark in 1993 at a depth of 67 meters, practically as new. See what the hole looks like after the growth was removed. U-864 is in better condition because it lies at less oxygen-rich depth. Therefore: raising is the solution.
Covering is illegal
Covering/capping 67 tonnes of mercury under sand and stone is illegal and violates the Water Framework Directive on requirements for improvement of the aquatic environment, the Mercury Regulation EU 852/2017 on landfill of mercury-containing waste. in addition to the OSPAR Convention where there is a requirement for Member States to clean up pollution, and not least the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It is directly illegal and dangerous to deposit 67 tonnes of mercury in salt water. Therefore, U-864 and loose bottles must be salvaged, and the seabed must be cleaned.