IG Report: Army Facility Improperly Handled Chemical Agents

DugwayProvingGround

Personnel at an Army chemical and biological storage and testing facility failed to follow protocols pertaining to the handling and tracking of sarin, a lethal nerve agent, according to a June Inspector General report.

In the report, aptly titled “The Army Needs to Improve Controls Over Chemical Surety Materials,” inspectors reviewed accountability controls at the Dugway Proving Ground and the U.S. Army Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah, as well as the Army’s Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado.

In 2015, the Dugway Proving Ground was cited for severe failures to follow protocol that allowed live anthrax spores to be shipped off to nearly 200 laboratories in 50 American states and nine foreign countries. Some of the packages containing the anthrax bacteria were shipped via commercial services such as FedEx.

A review of the facility’s practices at the time revealed that top officials at Dugway ignored multiple warnings regarding safety, even after other serious incidents involving anthrax, VX nerve agent and the poisonous Botulinum neurotoxin took place between 2007 and 2011. The review described a “complacent atmosphere” at the facility.

The highest-ranking official at Dugway, Brigadier General William King, was given a career-killing official reprimand and transferred to another facility after the previous anthrax incident.

Now, the recent IG report finds that officials at Dugway “did not conduct chemical agent inventories by primary container” when those agents were housed within a secondary container.

This means the actual chemical agent was never inspected, “[…] therefore, custodians [could not] identify and account for leaks, evaporation or theft that may have occurred,” according to the report.

Dugway offiicials, moreover, failed to notify the chemical materials accountability officer after a 1.5 milliliter (mL) shortage was discovered among the facility’s sarin stockpile in April of 2016. A lethal dose of sarin is about half a milligram, there are approximately 1,640 milligrams in 1.5 mL of sarin, or enough to kill over 3,000 people.

Inspectors also found that contractors working at the Dugway facility used re-sealable tape to seal containers, meaning they could have been tampered with between inspections without notice.

The report recommends that the Army deputy chief of staff coordinate with the Defense Department to revise Army regulations to better fit with DoD protocols regarding chemical inventories, a complete, 100 percent physical accounting of chemical agents, including the inspection of secondary containers and the provision of refresher training for Dugway personnel.

The Army and DoD agreed with some of the IG’s recommendations, though other outstanding issues still need to be hammered out.

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Contributed by Will Porter of The Daily Sheeple.

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