Part of Horn Island closed after hazardous materials discovered - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Part of Horn Island closed after hazardous materials discovered

About 30 acres of Horn Island will be closed to the public indefinitely after BP clean-up workers discovered tiles containing asbestos. One of 12 areas tested at that site also came back positive for mustard gas. About 30 acres of Horn Island will be closed to the public indefinitely after BP clean-up workers discovered tiles containing asbestos. One of 12 areas tested at that site also came back positive for mustard gas.
The hazardous materials are on the northwestern shore in an area that contains the remains of a military facility that was active in the 1940s. The hazardous materials are on the northwestern shore in an area that contains the remains of a military facility that was active in the 1940s.
HORN ISLAND, MS (WLOX) -

A section of Horn Island is closed to the public after the discovery of hazardous materials there. Asbestos and "mustard gas" have been detected on a small area of the popular wilderness island.

The hazards were discovered in a one acre area on the northwest shore known as "the chimney." That's the site of an old military chemical testing facility that was active in the early to mid 1940's.

BP clean-up crews discovered the hazard, which prompted the closing.

"That's everything in between the signs that's closed off to the public," said Gulf Islands Superintendent Dan Brown, as he pointed toward the island shoreline.

He gave reporters a view of the closure area from a park service boat, following a news conference at headquarters. The bricks and concrete that are visible from the boat are remnants of the old testing site.

"What you can see from this location are concrete foundations, concrete walls that are left from a couple of the structures that were never dismantled and removed," said Brown.

What BP workers discovered on the site in late June sounded the alarm. Tiles containing asbestos are scattered about the area.

"We knew that location was used for military testing for chemical and biological testing. We had nothing to give us any indication that there was any hazardous material left on site until just recently," said Brown.

Now warning signs are posted 1000 feet away from the chimney site. The park service environmental manager says closing the area is the right step to ensure public safety, even though it's unlikely an island visitor would suffer any health problems.

"The vast preponderance of adverse health effects associated with asbestos exposure are from long term exposures at high concentrations," said environmental manager Brian Cook.

Along with asbestos, one test site in the area tested positive for residual mustard gas. Research done by the park service shows that chemical was handled there.

"Some of it being from German U-boats that patrolled the Gulf of Mexico area. Some of it was transferred into this site for possible future testing. And then they were stored in this area. That's how the mustard got on site," said Brian Hardison, a safety officer with the Department of Interior.

To give this closure a little perspective, we're talking about 30 acres that's off limits to the public. But Horn Island covers some 2700 acres, so there's still plenty of island that remains open to visitors.

By the way, the clean-up of that hazardous site is expected to take several years.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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