Asbestos and Mustard Gas Found on Horn Island WWII Chemical Testing SiteBy Rhonda Miller | Published 20 Aug 2012 11:07pm |
The discovery of asbestos and mustard gas has shut down a portion of Horn Island, off the Mississippi coast. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the hazardous materials were spotted by BP.
From the National Park Service boat, the north side of Horn Island stretches peacefully along the Mississippi Sound. But there’s poison on this barrier island.
"We are directly offshore from the old operations site of the War Department chemical weapons testing site."
That’s Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown pointing out where the military tested chemical and biological weapons during World War II.
"What you can see from this location are concrete foundations, concrete walls that are left from a couple of the structures that were never dismantled and removed."
Those walls had exterior tiles made with asbestos. The military abandoned the site in the 1940s, and the tiles have broken up and scattered along the beach. The asbestos tiles were discovered by BP as it was making plans to ramp up the cleaning of tar balls, still washing ashore from the oil spill.
But oil and asbestos are not the only issues. Brown says environmental consultants tested for a long list of toxins.
"They have also taken samples, or tested, at a number of other locations at this site. And the initial determination is that they have also detected mustard gas, residual mustard gas, at one of those test locations. "
Brian Cook of the U.S. Public Health Service in Atlanta is collaborating with the Park Service in the response.
"There are acute issues associated with mustard gas. It’s a blister agent. So it’s in the next three days after exposure, you’d have blisters. Also, it attacks the eyes and the respiratory system. It was supposed to disable troops in times of war."
The hazardous materials are on one acre of Horn Island, but a 30-acre site is closed. The rest of the 14-mile long island is open to the public. The clean-up of asbestos and mustard gas is expected to take several years.
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