COWBOY CHEMISTS
Utah National Guard 85th WMD Civil Support Team participates in a training scenario Nov. 4, 2014, at U.S. Army Dugway Proving Grounds.
Utah National Guard 85th WMD Civil Support Team participates in a training scenario Nov. 4, 2014, at U.S. Army Dugway Proving Grounds.
Courtesy photo.

Anthrax Lab Has A History Of Playing Fast And Loose With Chemicals, Explosives

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When the story broke that the U.S. military accidentally sent live anthrax samples to more than 85 labs, it caused quite a stir and led the Pentagon to conduct a review of the safety breach, due this week. What’s particularly interesting is that the site of this slip-up — Dugway Proving Grounds, a massive Army research facility in remote northwestern Utah — has a history of messing up. The Daily Beast reports that this is not the first safety mishap to hit Dugway, which is alarming since the facility almost exclusively handles dangerous compounds and chemicals. One review of the safety procedures at Dugway found it was so poor that a bomb-handling course was suspended

“People were shocked… It was like: What are you guys doing out here?” a source familiar with the investigation told the Daily Beast. “No one could adequately explain why they needed to be f-ing around, making these exotic explosives.”

Even with the scathing review of Dugway’s procedures, it has maintained an almost flawless safety record. Logs given to the Daily Beast showed that in the past three years, there was only one single work-related injury.

“They are unorthodox but have been vetted by experienced synthetic chemists, EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] operators and have been used for eight years in the training of over a thousand EOD personnel, safely and with no mishaps,”  wrote Col. Ronald Fizer, Dugway’s commanding officer in a Nov. 2, 2014, memorandum.

However, the facility does not count wounds suffered by contractors, such as the chemist on base who blew off part of his hand while mixing dangerous compounds with a mortar and pestle.

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Get the full story at The Daily Beast.