Documents raise wastewater concerns at Ky. depot

AP News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2009 6:32 PM

Water used to clean explosives overflowed twice at a Kentucky Army depot, and a worker was told to dump rainwater that collected in another part of the depot into the sewer, according to a report obtained by an environmental watchdog.

The Washington-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the years-old documents it recently received from the Army raise concerns about the spillage and dumping of potentially contaminated wastewater.

The heavily redacted documents detail Army investigators' interviews with a Kentucky environmental regulator and a worker at the chemical weapons storage site at Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond. They were posted last week on the watchdog group's site.

According to the unnamed Kentucky official, there were at least two occasions in 2005 and 2006 when water used to wash conventional weapons at the depot overflowed into a drainage ditch behind the facility. Soil and water samples collected after the cleanup of the 2005 incident found levels of explosives still much higher than federal guidelines for industrial sites, the official said.

In a separate part of the base, a worker who monitored chemical weapon storage igloos said he was instructed to pour rainwater that collected there in the sewer as part of his routine.

The worker, interviewed in 2007, acknowledged he knew of no tests revealing the water found there was contaminated, but a lawyer for the environmental group said the revelation raises safety concerns all the same.

"You can't dump pollutants in a waterway without a proper permit allowing you to do that," said Paula Dinerstein, who represented a former Blue Grass weapons monitor who claimed he was pushed out of his job for raising safety concerns at the depot.

Depot commander Lt. Col. David L. Musgrave wasn't in charge during the events detailed in the interview, but said he knew nothing from his briefings that leads him to believe the facility ever failed to follow proper wastewater disposal procedures.

"Any water we get out of our igloos, we test that water as a requirement by the state of Kentucky," Musgrave said. "We dispose of it through an environmentally permitted process."

An Army inspector general's report released in July concluded the chemical weapons stockpile inadequately monitored a deadly nerve agent from 2003 through 2005, although it found no evidence any workers were exposed or any agent escaped the storage igloos into the atmosphere.

A grand jury once considered criminal charges stemming from some of those issues, but the Army ended its investigation in the spring without bringing indictments. That closed the case, allowing for the release of some of the Army's final investigative documents to PEER under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Blue Grass is scheduled to be the nation's last stockpile of chemical weapons to be destroyed, beginning in 2018 and finishing in 2021.

It is more complicated than some of the other sites that have already completed operations because Richmond holds weapons with three chemical agents _ VX, GB and mustard.