Army depot worker exposed to mustard gas

A worker at Oregon's Umatilla Depot working to prep chemical weapons for destruction was injured recently by a mustard agent.

The injury, which is believed to be the first exposure-related injury at the Umatilla Depot since it began the incineration of its chemical weapons stockpile in 2004, resulted in a small blister on the worker.

The exposure is the third such exposure nationwide since the destruction of chemical weapons by the Army began in 1990.

The incident, which was confirmed through urine samples, occurred when two workers were calibrating a scale that is used to weigh large storage tanks prior to tank incineration, Greg Mahall, a materials agency spokesman told

Weighing blocks were placed onto a sled to hold the tanks. The blocks and sled are then moved onto the scale. The mustard agent, which is believed to have  been left on a nozzle that was used to suction the agent out for incineration, dripped onto the blocks.

As the sled and blocks were extracted, the workers assumed incorrectly that the liquid was oil or hydraulic fluid. Some of the agent contacted one of the worker's skin.

As the workers left the incinerator building, sensors registered low level of the mustard agent in an airlock.

Incineration at the depot has stopped following the mustard gas exposure and workers are being retrained in safety procedures. Steps have also been taken to clean the nozzles of tanks and workers are now required to notify the control room and evacuate any area that unidentified liquids are found in.