APG waste may go off site

Deal in works for DuPont to haul liquid from mustard agent

`Very slight, if any' risk

February 17, 2002|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

An Aberdeen Proving Ground contractor and DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise are negotiating a contract for off-site treatment of the byproduct created by mustard agent neutralization.

"Bechtel [Aberdeen] is in the process of negotiating with DuPont," Kevin J. Flamm, project manager for alternative technologies and approaches in APG's Office of the Project Manager for Chemical Demilitarization, said Friday. He said the final contract would likely be announced next month.

Neither APG nor DuPont would disclose the amount of the contract, which calls for DuPont to transport 5 million gallons of hydrolysate - the byproduct of neutralizing the mustard agent in hot water and a caustic solution - to the chemical corporation's sprawling Chamber Works plant in Deepwater, N.J. The plant is capable of processing 40 million gallons of wastewater a day.

The Army hopes to neutralize by the end of the year 1,621 tons of mustard agent - a toxic substance that blisters the eyes, skin and lungs - that have been stored at APG since World War II.

A multistep treatment that involves bacteria would be used on the neutralized byproduct, which contains about 92 percent water and 8 percent thiodiglycol - as well as trace amounts of salts, metals and volatile organic compounds such as tetrachloroethylene, vinyl chloride and chloroform, according to an environmental assessment.

Anthony Farina, a Chamber Works spokesman, said DuPont expects to use five 5,000-gallon tanker trucks a day to haul the hydrolysate over six to eight months.

Although thiodiglycol, a common industrial chemical used in cosmetics and ball-point pen ink, is considered fairly benign by environmental experts, the trace amounts of other compounds in the hydrolysate require the trucks to be marked for hazardous waste transport, Flamm said Friday.

Doug Richmond, Harford County emergency planner, said the county will have transportation schedules and will update volunteer firefighters and hazardous materials workers regularly. But a spill or accident involving the highly diluted hydrolysate would pose "very slight, if any" risk to the community, he said.

In the mid-1990s, when the Army was researching the neutralization process, DuPont conducted a feasibility study to determine whether biotreatment could process the hydrolysate successfully, Farina said.

DuPont disposes of other hazardous waste from APG, including polluted ground water and acids used in tank cleaning and other work, said George Mercer, installation spokesman.

The Army decided after the DuPont study to build an on-site biotreatment plant. But officials reversed that decision after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11. Shipping the hydrolysate off site eliminates the need for building a treatment plant and hastens the mustard agent destruction process.

Mack Lake, mayor of Carneys Point, where DuPont's hazardous waste landfill is located, and director of emergency response for Salem County, N.J., said "there's really been no reaction" from the community about the proposal.

Although early mentions of chemical warfare agent raised some concerns, he said, once the community learned that hydrolysate is highly diluted and contains no mustard agent, interest quickly faded.

"It's probably not the most hazardous product that comes into DuPont for treatment," he said.

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