Researchers raise UXO concerns about Gulf of Mexico

Researchers recently warned that unexploded World War II-era ordnance, including chemical weapons, dumped into the Gulf of Mexico poses a threat to oil drilling operations.

William Bryant, an oceanography professor from Texas A&M University, said that it was a relatively common practice for the United States and other governments to dump unused munitions and chemical weapons into the gulf after the war's end, according to The Daily Mail.

Bryant said the practice continued until the 1970s, when U.S. law and international treaties banned it. Recent technological advances are allowing oil companies to push deeper and deeper into the Gulf of Mexico and the munitions now pose a potential threat to their operations.

Unexploded ordnance was recently found in an offshore area known as the Mississippi Canyon, where BP's ill-fated Macondo well was located.

The U.S. government designated certain areas of the gulf, as well as areas in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, for dumping unexploded munitions and chemical weapons. Now, 70 years later, it is unknown how much was disposed of and exactly what threat it poses to humans or marine life.

"These bombs are a threat today and no one knows how to deal with the situation," Bryant said, The Daily Mail reports. "If chemical agents are leaking from some of them, that's a real problem. If many of them are still capable of exploding, that's another big problem."