News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 9, 2009

Newport Chemical Depot cleaning materials that may have come in contact with VX

All of the VX is gone, but now the Newport Chemical Depot in Vermillion County is working to clean up materials that may have come into contact with either the nerve agent or the solution that resulted when it was converted into a transportable liquid.

As part of the final chapter in the history of the chemical weapons storage facility, officials at Newport have asked the State of Indiana for a permit to operate a big, hot air dryer that will evaporate any liquids that might remain on things such as valves or personal safety suits, Newport officials said Monday.

Once the items are dried, they will be packed in 55-gallon, lined drums, said Jeff Brubaker, a civilian employee of the U.S. Army and site manager at the Chemical Depot. “One of the requirements prior to shipment is to verify that there is no free liquids within the drums,” he said, adding that there are expected to be around 100 drums filled with dried materials.

After being dried, the materials in the drums will be shipped to Port Arthur, Texas, for final destruction, he said.

Exhaust from the all-electric hot air drier, which is around the size of a commercial bread oven, will be “scrubbed” in carbon filters six times before being released into the atmosphere, Brubaker said.

“The air that is exhausted passes through a carbon bed … that will trap any organic material to include potential for VX,” he said. The exhaust air is also monitored for VX, he added.

As part of the permit process, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is seeking public comment on the request for the drier. Copies of the permit request are available at the Newport Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office, 306 S. Main St., Clinton, the Clinton Public Library and at IDEM in Indianapolis. A public meeting on the request will take place at 6 p.m. March 18 at the Clinton Public Library at Fourth and Blackman streets in Clinton.

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