We had asked the MOD for areas where p4 munitions had been fired on its land and also for a list of MOD SSSI sites containing wetland areas in previous requests. We wanted to know more about the potential for p4 materials to find a pathway to animal and avian receptors.
WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
“Do the MOD have a policy of removing spent munitions from its designated SSSI wetland sites? What happens to these munitions and who carries out this work?
Do the MOD have a policy on removing dead animals and birds from its land on designated SSSI sites?
If there is no policy can you please advise me that this is the case?”
The MOD replied through Defence Estates.
“I can confirm that the MOD holds information that falls within the scope of your request.
I have been advised that there is no specific MOD policy for removing spent munitions from SSSI wetland sites. However, the MOD has policies that dictate the control and management of Ordnance, Munitions and Explosives (OME) in their safe use and disposal across the entire defence estate. Clearance work is undertaken by the Engineers Regiment, with all cleared OME being either detonated on the range or safely removed and disposed of through approved contracts managed by the DE&S Defence Equipment and Support Team.
There is no MOD policy relating to the removal of dead animals and birds from its SSSI sites. All domesticated farm animals on MOD ranges are managed by agricultural tenants or licensees and are subject to the EU Animal By-Products Regulation controlling the removal of dead livestock.
Wild animals that have died on the ranges such as birds and small mammals will be subject to natural decomposition processes.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
If wild animals and birds are present on a range where munitions are detonated then there is certainly potential for p4 poisoning. If these birds and animals are left to decompose naturally, there is potential for secondary p4 poisoning. This was also investigated at Eagle River Flats.
Predation of ducks poisoned by white phosphorus; exposure and risk to predators (1994)
B.D Roebuck, S.I Nam, D.L MacMillan, K.J Baumgartner, and M.E Walsh
Environmental toxicology and Chemistry
“Particles of white phosphorus (p4) in pond sediments at Eagle River Flats, Alaska, USA, a military artillery range are acutely toxic to dabbling ducks and swans. We determined if toxicity of P4 to ducks varied by its form (i.e, dissolved or particulate) or particle size. Residual P4 in the digestive tract of ducks was measured to assess risks posed to predators and scavengers of ducks. Farm-reared mallards were treated with 12m.g p4/kg body weight, either dissolved in oil, or as numerous small, or one or two large particles. At the first major convulsion, ducs were euthanized and the quantity and location of p4 in the digestive tract were determined. These data were compared to data from dead ducks collected from the artillery range. Dissolved, small or large particles of p4 produced similar accute toxicity. Residual P4 in digestive tracts was greatest in ducks treated with small particles and was as great as 3.5 mg P4. Similar quantities of residual P4 were found in dead ducks collected at Eagle River Flats. For dabbling ducks, P4 particle size is not as important as the dose ingested. For predators, the P4 contents of the entire digestive tract is important for assessment of the risk of poisoning.”
NB Bald eagles from Eagle river flats were found to contain white phosphorus in body fat.