“Historically, the sites were used to test the fate of chemical agents in high temperatures,” said John Ditillo, CBARR project manager. “For example, they would sit a pallet of munitions in the hot sun for the summer, where it can get upwards of 120 degrees; then, test to see if the chemical agent inside the munitions changed or if the containers degraded.”
The two test fields, closed off by barbed-wire fencing, are suspected to be contaminated with a host of chemicals previously used in defense programs, including mustard agents, nerve agent and phosgene. Contaminated soil, containers, contaminated scrap metals, CWM munitions, protective personnel equipment, and equipment that may have been used decades ago reportedly remain on the premises. The area has older structures that may need to be demolished, and structures that have already collapsed, but neither can be removed until investigative work has been performed to assess contamination.
ECBC’s team will be supporting the Huntsville Center, which is managing the project. Huntsville Center uses ECBC’s CBARR unit for all of its cleanup projects at CWM sites where chemical weapons may have been used, Ditillo said.
ECBC’s CBARR unit will conduct CWM analytical tests on soil borings samples collected by the Huntsville Center contractor, Parsons Engineering, using a push rig to access cores of soil and samples from trenches, in order to provide a cross section of contaminates in representative trenches. Parsons Engineering is doing the bulk of the work; such as trenching, intrusive excavations, borings, well installation, and collecting the samples for testing.
“The purpose of this project is not to remove the items but to investigate discreet areas and determine what’s there and how much, and what the condition is,” Ditillo said. “This is a first look at the problem and what we can expect.” It will be up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to decide how to handle what the team discovers, he said.
ECBC will also provide air monitoring performed by Miniature Continuous Air Monitoring Systems™ (MINICAMS™) with confirmation by a Depot Area Air Monitoring System (DAAMS) to ensure worker safety. A crew of three chemical engineering technicians and two chemists, on one-month rotations, will be staffing the project. They’re outfitted with custom air monitoring vehicles, a mobile laboratory, support vehicles and a generator.
The ECBC team completed a walk-through of the site in its first week at YPG, noting visible landmarks: trenches used to bury items, pits and ground scars.
True to ECBC’s exacting safety measures, the team then embarked on three weeks of onsite safety training, starting with preoperational survey measures and ending with a week of training from the Huntsville Center. ECBC’s CBARR unit also completed what’s called the Huntsville Survey, a weeklong safety check administered by the Huntsville Center as a dry run prior to the preoperational survey, which catches and corrects potential safety concerns.
The team is trying to work with Mother Nature to complete the assignment by the end of May, before desert temps spike.