Westinghouse officials say they are "99.9 percent certain" that 21 lost shipping containers, four loaded with the powerful poison arsenic trioxide, have been found in the Atlantic Ocean 30 miles east of Cape May, N.J.
However, the Coast Guard cautioned that while it is optimistic that the objects on the ocean floor are the missing containers, which included more than 400 drums of arsenic, they have not been positively identified.
According to the Westinghouse officials, a sonar device built at its complex in Annapolis and normally used by the Navy for detecting underwater mines was used to find the containers on the ocean floor.
Lt. John Flynn, a spokesman for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety office in Philadelphia, referred to the objects detected Wednesday by the Westinghouse sonar units as "contacts" and said they could be "old fishing vessels or old anchors."
Flynn said the Coast Guard plans to send a remote-operated vehiclecontaining a television camera to the location as soon as weather permits, maybe later today or tomorrow.
Anne Grizzel, a Westinghouse spokeswoman, said that the objects it has located are the same size and shape of the missing 21 shipping containers, each about the size of a truck trailer.
The containers were swept off a Panamanian freighter, the Santa Clara, as it was sailing from New York to the Dundalk marine terminal during a ferocious coastal storm two weeks ago.