Toxic agent found during APG cleanup

Substances were in bottles near Bush River tributary

December 21, 2003|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

An Aberdeen Proving Ground environmental scientist said Friday that an emergency cleanup of aging glass bottles found along the banks of a Bush River tributary has turned up chemical warfare agent in some of the containers.

Don Green, who works in the base's environmental restoration program, said he received a phone call late Thursday from the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, which has been analyzing the containers since the cleanup began in the spring.

The 28 bottles, which were discovered at the rear of a burial pit after grass along the shoreline was peeled back, contained some mustard agent and lewisite, Green said. He said the bottles ranged in size from laboratory vials to 5-gallon containers.

Green said he was not told how large the discovery was, but added that he expects to receive a detailed written report from the ECBC lab this week.

Thirty-one other bottles removed from the site previously have not contained agent, he said.

Glenda Bowling of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Superfund Citizens Coalitions, which watches cleanup at the base closely, said she has asked for a presentation on the discovery at next month's environmental restoration advisory board.

"Anytime they find mustard and lewisite, it's not good news," Bowling said. "Until I get some more information, that's about all I can say."

She said she wants to know whether any of the containers were leaking, and how much chemical agent was discovered.

The Kings Creek time-critical removal action began in the spring after a biologist found glass bottles spilling from the eroded shoreline.

Green said a temporary shoreline buffer has been created, and the next step, to be taken next month, will use ground-penetrating radar to scan for other burial pits in the area, which has long been known as a dumping ground.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the area was an open burning and dumping site for mustard agent and lewisite, now-banned carcinogenic blistering agents, according to APG records. Old munitions also were dumped in pits.

Green said the project so far has cost about $180,000.

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