Rhode Island port adds chemical threat detectors

Rhode Island homeland security officials have beefed up security at the Port of Providence by placing three chemical detectors to sample the air for potential chemical threats.

The detectors can tell security officials if an accidental or intentional release of dangerous chemicals has occurred, the Providence Journal reports. The devices can detect 15 industrial chemical compounds, including ammonia, and can identify seven bioterrorist chemical agents, including sarin and mustard gas.

Providence Homeland Security officials staged a simulated emergency this week to demonstrate the capability of the chemical detectors. The simulated emergency involved an accident that involved a truck hitting a moving railroad train which, in turn, caused a chlorine release, the Providence Journal reports.

Peter T. Gaynor, the city director of emergency management, told the Providence Journal that officials are plugging the chemical detectors into a gradually developing Narragansett Bay shipping-security cordon that stretches from Newport 25 miles north to the Iway bridge.

“We have eyes and ears, and now we have a nose,” Gaynor said, also referring to security cameras along the corridor, the Providence Journal reports.

The chemical detectors will mainly be monitored by the Enforcement Division of the state Department of Environmental Management.

Using federal homeland security grants totaling $563,000, the city contracted with Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems for the chemical sensors, Gaynor said, according to the Providence Journal.