Fort Bliss: Radioactive material discovered on Biggs Airfield

Fort Bliss, US Army
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 10:54am

Fort Bliss officials announced radioactive material has been discovered on Biggs Airfield.

Workers on Biggs were possibly exposed to residue remains, mostly Uranium, since the 1950s. An announcement by Fort Bliss officials Tuesday said they were unsure who was at risk since it was too early in the investigation, but they did not believe there was any immediate health or safety risk. There was apparently a low level risk found during an initial inspection.

"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 area of concern was referred to the "snake pit," a building north of the airport, west of 1AD.

"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."

Congressman Beto O'Rourke reacted to the announcement with the following statement.

“I am working with Major General MacFarland and Fort Bliss leadership to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to protect, inform, and help anyone who might have been affected."

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 were expected in about a week. Meanwhile, activities in and around the storage building were 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.

Individuals concerned with this announcement were advised to call (915) 744-1255, (915) 744-1962, (915) 744-8263, (915) 744-8264.

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