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Two vaper leaks in cold war era weapons storage-Kentucky

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posted on May, 27 2009 @ 12:04 PM
Two vapor leaks were found Tuesday in separate igloos where thousands of Cold War-era chemical weapons are stored in Kentucky, but Army officials said that they posed little danger outside the facility. The leaked materials were mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.

Blue Grass Chemical Activity spokesman Richard Sloan said they were the first two leaks discovered this year at the Army Depot in Richmond.

Two leaks being found hours apart is a rare coincidence, if not unprecedented, he said. "I don't think I've ever seen it happen before," Sloan said. Monitoring equipment found low levels of mustard agent vapor Tuesday morning inside one of the projectile storage igloos.

Hours later, another leak of GB vapor was found at an igloo that houses M55 rockets. It was unclear when the leaks actually occurred. Neither leak was considered a serious threat to the surrounding area, and filters attached to the igloo vents ensure none of the agent escapes into the atmosphere.

Workers were planning to enter the igloos Wednesday to locate the leaking weapons and repack them. "It's always a cause for concern, therefore we don't expect it, but it's something we're well trained to handle," Sloan said. Sloan said the rising temperatures could have played a role in the mustard leak. Two similar leaks were found last summer, blamed in part on the heat. Mustard agent is among the least lethal of the Cold War-era munitions housed at the depot and other storage sites, and is set to be destroyed to comply with an international treaty.

Unlike GB and other deadly nerve agents housed there, mustard is a weapon designed to debilitate an opposing Army by causing massive breakouts of blisters on the body, including the throat and lungs when inhaled. GB, or sarin, is more difficult to detect because it his odorless and colorless, Sloan said. Unless there is a visible liquid leak, workers will use plastic sheets to isolate each rocket and find the leaking one by process of elimination. The GB leak found Tuesday was believed to be much smaller than a liquid sarin leak in August 2007 that sparked an emergency operation to dispose of the container holding it. That process was completed earlier this year.)



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