Mustard gas leaking off the Knokke-Heist coast: "We need a pilot project to solve this issue"

There is a lot of war ammunition lying on the bottom of the North Sea, just off the north-eastern end of the Belgian coast. It's an issue that needs to be addressed, because time is ticking. 

The ammunition was dumped there after both world wars. Many items are one hundred years old. It's an old problem, but the dump is situated not far from the beach, at a relatively shallow area called the Paardenmarkt. There are an estimated 35,000 tons of ammunition and some of it is leaking. 

Recently, new samples were taken from the water near the sea bed to address pollution and health concerns. The new results show that there is musterd gas leaking. Low concentrations, but still something to be monitored, says federal MP An Capoen. Earlier research showed that there is also TNT leaking into the sea water. "We should be careful, because it hasn't been investigated yet what happens if these two come together in the seawater", warns Capoen. 

The West-Flemish governor Carl Decaluwé wants immediate action. He is pressing for a pilot project to remove all the ammunition in a safe way. He says we should try to clear up a little part in a kind of pilot project, to see what happens and whether this can be done safely.

Meanwhile, the Flemish minister responsible for the North Sea, Philippe De Backer says "there is no reason to panic". 

Top stories