By JEFFREY McMURRAY
Associated Press Writer
RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - Army officials said Friday they expect to begin work next spring to destroy three tanks of deadly nerve agent at Blue Grass Army Depot - including one that leaked a gallon of liquid in August.
Kevin Flamm, program manager for the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, said the process of neutralizing the nerve agent with chemicals would take 80 days and likely conclude in May. The federal government will pay for the operation, which he expects to cost $1.7 million.
It will be the first time the Army has used a mobile unit based in Aberdeen, Md., known as a chemical agent transfer system to neutralize chemical weapons stored at a stockpile. The other weapons stored at Blue Grass must be destroyed by 2017 to comply with an international treaty.
A community advisory board will hear the proposal Friday afternoon in Richmond. Flamm said the Army determined the proposal was safer than another one that would have required using explosives to destroy the agent.
During a media briefing Friday morning, Lt. Col. Tom Closs, commander of the chemical destruction program at the depot, said he had no reason to believe any sarin vapor was released from the igloo, even though both vents were open at the time of the Aug. 27 leak.
"There's absolutely no way, no indication whatsoever any agent escaped," Closs said.
He said he based those conclusions on the lack of any reported health problems for workers who might have been exposed and a model that projected the likely air flow after the leak.
There was no air monitoring system outside the igloo at the time, but Closs said that isn't necessary because of the sophisticated monitoring inside.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)