The Richmond Register

Local News

July 21, 2009

Army: Agent monitoring system was inoperative

Chemical weapons stockpiled at the Blue Grass Army Depot went two years without being monitored, according to a report released Monday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The U.S. Army’s inspector general’s agency investigated several claims made by Donald VanWinkle, a former depot whistle blower, who claimed he was retaliated against when he voiced concerns about how the weapon storage igloos were being monitored.

The report covered September 2003 through August 2005 and was obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by PEER.

Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA) spokesman Dick Sloan said Monday he had not seen the report and had no immediate comment. However, the BGCA will be issuing a statement later today, Sloan said.

“We have received a copy of the inspector general’s report and will go over it carefully to see if there’s anything additional we can do to provide enhanced safety for the community and its citizens,” Sloan said.

The BGCA is the entity in charge of the safe storage, monitoring and demolition of chemical weapons being stored at the depot.

Some chemical weapons in storage are filled with GB agent and others are filled with VX agent. Both are deadly, but VX agent cannot be seen, whereas GB turns into a gas and spreads throughout the atmosphere.

Because VX is invisible “ ... Blue Grass (Army Depot) had no means ... to determine whether the odorless, colorless nerve gas was seeping from the rockets in which the agent is stored,” according to a statement released Monday by PEER spokesperson Kirsten Stade.

“The concern that the miniature chemical agent monitoring system sampling configuration at (the depot) for VX was incorrect is founded for the period of September 2003 through August 2005,” the inspector general report states.

If the nerve agent leaked into the atmosphere during this time, there still would be no great environmental impact, according to Craig Williams, director of the Berea-based Chemical Weapons Working Group.

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