By Richard SloanAugust 6, 2008
Blue Grass Chemical Activity, Richmond, KY - A second leak has been detected in another igloo of projectiles containing chemical agent Mustard. This is the second Mustard leak found by Blue Grass Chemical Activity mobile laboratories in two weeks
Today's leak, confirmed by Army officials, was detected at extremely low levels by a mobile gas chromatograph, and then confirmed by using a more detailed procedure that requires a longer period of analysis. This leak, like the leak that occurred on July 28th is an extremely low concentration which is confined to the interior of the igloo and poses no threat to the community or the environment.
What's a low concentration level' The detection levels are usually measured in terms of Short-Term-Exposure-Limit or STEL. A STEL represents the maximum concentration to which workers can be exposed for a short period of time (usually 15 minutes or less). Typically, low concentration Mustard leaks are detected at one fourth to three fourths STEL, or in scientific terms, one STEL equals to 0.00001 milligrams per cubic meter. In common terms, it's almost harder to visualize. Comparatively, it's a detection level that would allow detection of one specific grain of salt in 34 freight cars of potato chips.
A 1,000 cubic foot per minute (CFM) filter has been connected to igloo to ensure no agent vapor escapes to the outside air. A detailed safety work plan has been developed and toxic chemical workers in protective clothing have entered the igloo to begin the search through thousands of artillery shells for the leaking munition.
The leaking 155mm artillery shell from the leak reported on July28th is also being sought by a detailed process that at this point has identified one pallet of eight rounds that has at least one leaking munition. The igloo also contains thousands of munitions and it often takes several days or weeks to find the leaking artillery shell. Once found, the leaking munition in each igloo will be overpacked in a leakproof container and stored with other overpacked artillery shells containing Mustard.
The cause of both Mustard leaks is unknown, but the current warm weather which tends to thaw the volatile blister agent causing occasional higher internal pressures as well as the age of the munitions may have some bearing on the frequency of leaks. The earliest Mustard munitions arrived at Blue Grass Army Depot in 1944 making most of the Mustard munitions more than a half century old
This and the earlier leak is not a danger to the community or the environment. Madison County, surrounding counties, and Kentucky emergency management and environmental officials were notified immediately of the vapor detection and will be continuously updated of any new developments