Army Investigates Radiation Exposure At Fort Bliss

Jul 16, 2013

Fort Bliss officials are working closely with the U.S. Air Force Safety
Center and other Army agencies after a recent examination of a former Air
Force weapons storage building indicated potentially hazardous materials.
About 30 people have been working in the bunker taking inventory and conducting other tasks. They're being tested to determine whether they've been exposed.

"At the request of the Fort Bliss Installation Safety Office, the Air Force
Safety Center conducted an evaluation of a former Air Force weapons storage
area at Biggs Army Airfield, Fort Bliss, Texas, in June," said Air Force
Chief of Safety Maj. Gen. Kurt F. Neubauer.  "The evaluation revealed the
presence of low-level radiological contamination resulting from maintenance
activities conducted in the latter 1950s by the Air Force in accordance with
existing policy and regulations of that time. The safety center will provide
continued technical assistance to the Army in evaluation and mitigation of
these sites."

"The safety of our Soldiers and employees is paramount to Major General Sean
B. MacFarland, commander of Fort Bliss and the 1st Armored Division," said
Major Joe Buccino, Fort Bliss Public Affairs Officer.  "Additional tests are
pending to determine the nature and specific extent of any potential residue
of hazardous material at the site storage building on Biggs Army Airfield."

On July 11, Fort Bliss suspended any activity at the storage building as a
precautionary measure to ensure the safety of employees and Soldiers.
Additional environmental and medical evaluations are expected in about a
week.  Meanwhile, activities in and around the storage building are
suspended until further examinations are complete and any necessary remedial
steps can be taken.

The Biggs storage building being examined by environmental and medical
experts was used for Air Force activities during the 1950-1960s that
sometimes produced hazardous materials.  Standard environmental practices at
that time usually included encapsulating floors and other surfaces with
protective epoxy paint. These paint particles are contained within the
building.  One potential exposure risk is from ingestion of the paint chips.
The ongoing studies will determine the extent of any potential risks from
the storage building's painted floor and the site.