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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Army closely monitors chemical agent disposal facility

May 23, 2013
By ECBC Communications

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Supporting a larger quest to establish a legacy of environmental responsibility, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's chemical and biological center is making progress.

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Chemical Biological Application and Risk Reduction Business Unit has safely sampled, monitored and analyzed 58 hazardous waste management units, some of which stored chemical agents at the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in northeast Oregon.

A team has been at the Umatilla Chemical Depot monitoring the units, known as 'igloos,' before the contract was switched to the Chemical Materials Activity.

Through a unique Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, CBARR and site contractor URS Federal Services continued the relationship to monitor in accordance with the UMCDF Hazardous Waste Permit and then to close the igloos in accordance with the closure plan.

CBARR began the General Population Limit monitoring project in November 2012 and finished on May 21, 2013.

Real-time Analytical Platforms are mobile vehicles equipped with Depot Area Air Monitoring Systems and Miniature Continuous Air Monitors, and are used onsite to examine the interior atmosphere for potential hazards. Mustard Igloos Temperature Conditioning Systems are also used onsite to heat the igloos to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and clear the structure of any chemicals present.

'MITECs are big heaters that are staged inside the igloo,' said Satchell Doyle, CBARR chemical engineer and Umatilla project manager. 'They heat the inside of the structure to at least 80 degrees.

Two RTAP operators then use the DAAMS and MINICAMS to monitor the atmosphere to make sure it is not hazardous. After 12 hours at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, a sample is collected shipped back to ECBC at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., where CBARR conducts GPL analysis.'

The sampling methodology used in GPL monitoring requires the utmost accuracy due to the extreme sensitivity of this kind of work, said Doyle.

Common challenges include background interference from trace organophosphate pesticides, hydrocarbons and other airborne chemicals in the ambient air. Trained and experience CBARR personnel ensure these challenges are met with precision, supporting a larger demilitarization effort that requires the safe decontamination and clearing of igloos located on the depot.

According to Doyle, four ECBC employees operated the RTAPs and MITECs in a supporting effort to contractor URS as the UMCDF/UMCD Closure Plan transitions the land to the state of Oregon. Final approval of the UMCDF Closure Plan was granted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Jan. 17, 2013.

According to a press release from contractor URS Federal Services in January, chemical agent destruction operations were completed in October 2011. Since then, the UMCDF team has worked to decontaminate and decommission onsite buildings, including the Munitions Demilitarization Building, where chemical agents and weapons were processed. CBARR supports URS in the closure effort using state-of-the-art monitoring equipment to assess and confirm the chemical agent hazard has been alleviated prior to turnover.

Aaron Sredin, CBARR chemical engineering technician and RTAP operator, was responsible for conducting weekly 'first-entry' surveillance tests on the igloos, six of which had agent contaminated waste items that were shipped to Port Arthur, Texas for incineration. In addition to the task, Sredin put together an inventory list of all the items that supported equipment used by the RTAPs, including generators, gas chromatographs and heaters.

'If we were going to use these RTAPs anywhere else, what would I need?' Sredin recalled. 'I pulled out every item that I deemed necessary for each of the six instruments that we were using inside three RTAPs onsite. I categorized everything from quantity to part number.'

According to Sredin, the equipment holds up fairly well during operations, but it is likely that filters for the hydrogen and nitrogen air generators may need to be replaced depending upon the humidity in a given location. The inventory list saved URS valuable time in determining which parts were necessary for onsite work, whether it is the UMCDF or the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot, where the RTAP equipment may be used.

'I absolutely love doing stuff like this. I like to go in there and help people, and know that it's made a big impact on them,' Sredin said. 'It's my job, but it's also my pleasure to make sure it goes well for people, and the inventory list is something that can be directly used in Pueblo.'

CBARR support to Umatilla will officially end once the GPL monitoring of igloos is completed at the end of May. Sredin called the project a 'great success and a very enjoyable job with great people to work with.'


ECBC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

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