APG resumes destroying banned mustard agent

Work halted in November after leak, corrosion found

January 18, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The Army's mustard agent destruction program at Aberdeen Proving Ground resumed Thursday night after a second work stoppage in November for repairs, a spokesman said.

Project leaders halted destruction of the banned chemical warfare agent after a low-level leak was detected inside one of the specially ventilated drain stations, where the molasses-like substance is collected and pumped into treatment tanks, said Jeff Linblad, spokesman for the Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.

Workers discovered corrosion in some of the drain station's pipes and collection pans, Linblad said. The piping has been replaced and the pans coated with corrosion-resistant epoxy, he said.

Aberdeen is home to about 1,500 tons of mustard agent and is one of the military's eight chemical agent stockpile sites.

Workers are required to wear full protective clothing while working in drain station areas, he said. The agent is being neutralized, or agitated, in a hot-water bath that breaks the mustard down into less-toxic compounds for commercial treatment off-site.

Since the project began in April, Linblad said, about 78 tons of agent have been destroyed. But work has been stopped by a variety of problems, including false alarms and hard-to-clean containers. In August, work was stopped for more than a month while repairs were made to the drain stations.

For information on the stockpile or destruction process, call the Chemical Materials Agency Public Outreach and Information Office: 410-436-4555.

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