From: Associated Press
Published October 31, 2005 12:00 AM

Nerve Agent Destruction Halted in Indiana after 500-Gallon Wastewater Spill

NEWPORT, Ind. — Army contractors halted operations Saturday at a western Indiana complex built to destroy a deadly nerve agent after nearly 500 gallons of caustic wastewater spilled in a contained area.


No workers were injured or exposed to the hydrolysate, a byproduct of the destruction of the agent, when it leaked onto the floor of a sealed area at the Newport Chemical Depot, depot spokesman Dennis Lindsey said.


The facility was to be shut down until the spill was cleaned up and its cause determined, Lindsey said.


The western Indiana facility destroys the Cold War-era chemical weapon VX using a mixture of heated sodium hydroxide and water. A droplet is enough to kill a healthy human.


The leak occurred in a recirculation loop that workers use to take samples of material to ensure that each batch of chemically neutralized VX contains no trace of the nerve agent.


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In May, workers for Army contractor Parsons Technology Inc. began destroying more than 250,000 gallons of VX. The project was halted in June after a leak allowed about 30 gallons of VX, sodium hydroxide and water to spill in a contained area.


Work resumed in late August; Lindsey said the valve system that was replaced after the June incident worked properly during the latest leak.


Pending federal approval, the Army plans to ship millions of gallons of hydrolysate to a DuPont Inc., plant in New Jersey for treatment and eventual discharge into the Delaware River.


Source: Associated Press


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