Pue­blo Chem­i­cal De­pot leak no threat, o∞cials say

Army: 450 gal­lons of waste­water seeped at weapons plant

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Dan El­liott

pue­blo» About 450 gal­lons of haz­ardous waste­water leaked from a tank at a Colorado plant where chem­i­cal weapons are be­ing de­stroyed, the Army said Fri­day.

There was no threat to work­ers or nearby com­mu­ni­ties from the Nov. 20 spill at the Pue­blo Chem­i­cal De­pot, of­fi­cials said.

The waste­water was con­fined to a con­tain­ment area and cleaned up, site project man­ager Gre­gory Mohrman said in a writ­ten state­ment.

The waste­water was pri­mar­ily salty wa­ter called hy­drolysate, pro­duced when mus­tard agent is neu­tral­ized with hot wa­ter and a caus­tic chem­i­cal, said Sandy Romero, a spokes­woman for Bech­tel Corp., the lead con­trac­tor on the project.

The waste con­tained no mus­tard agent, she said.

The waste­water leaked when seals on a tank failed, Mohrman said. The plant shut down while the cause of the fail­ure is in­ves­ti­gated, and no startup date has been set.

The highly au­to­mated, $4.5 bil­lion plant is de­stroy­ing about 780,000 shells filled with 2,600 tons of mus­tard agent un­der an in­ter­na­tional treaty.

The plant be­gan op­er­at­ing this year and is ex­pected to fin­ish in 2020.

The fi­nal ac­tiv­i­ties to close the plant — in­clud­ing shut­down, dis­man­tling, and restora­tion of land on the site — are sched­uled to be com­plete two years af­ter that.

Mus­tard agent can maim or kill by blis­ter­ing skin, scar­ring eyes and in­flam­ing air­ways. It is a thick liq­uid, not a gas as com­monly be­lieved. It is col­or­less and al­most odor­less but got its name be­cause im­pu­ri­ties made early ver­sions smell like mus­tard.

Sep­a­rately, of­fi­cials said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing how rain­wa­ter leaked through a liner in an­other con­tain­ment area at the plant on Nov. 23. The area was not in use at the time.

The rain­wa­ter did not get into the plant’s neu­tral­iza­tion process, Romero said in an e-mail.

Mohrman said state of­fi­cials were no­ti­fied at the time of each in­ci­dent.

Asked why the broader pub­lic was not no­ti­fied un­til Fri­day, Romero said of­fi­cials ini­tially thought the plant would re­sume op­er­a­tions sooner.

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