Greenish material in drums still a mystery, but initial tests don't indicate hazard

Posted: Sunday, April 14, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The greenish material found in two dozen 55-gallon drums at Fort Greely remains a mystery, but so far there's no indication they were filled with chemical weapons or hazardous waste.

The barrels were unearthed nearly a week ago during ground clearing for the National Missile Defense System. Sample results of the contents are due back on Monday, said Greg Light, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation officer overseeing the cleanup.

In the meantime, construction at the site has been suspended.

The Army said Friday that samples of soil and the barrel contents were sent to a laboratory in the Lower 48. The drums, marked ''U.S. CWS'' for the Chemical Warfare Service, were about three feet beneath the surface of the ground in the post buildings area. The Chemical Warfare Service was created in World War I, the first conflict to see the use of chemical weapons such as chlorine gas and mustard gas.

The drums were found in an area that was forested prior to the site work. The area is not frequented by either military personnel, their families or civilians, said Chuck Canterbury, Army Alaska spokesman.

A spokeswoman for Aglaq Construction Enterprises, the contractor for the site preparation work, said that workers exposed to the chemicals have not experienced any illnesses related to that exposure.

The discovery of the barrels was made as workers from Aglaq Corp. and subcontractor Brice Inc. excavated during site preparation for the National Missile Defense System testbed project. The project is to be located on 134 acres on the south side of the mothballed Army installation.

Canterbury said the barrels are located in a half-mile area that will remain cordoned off pending identification of the drum contents.

''There isn't going to be any work going on there for a while,'' he said.

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