April 29, 2008 – Longshoremen should finish unloading 6,700 tons of sand contaminated with depleted uranium and lead Tuesday afternoon, said Chad Hyslop, spokesman for the disposal company American Ecology.
The BBC Alabama arrived at the port Saturday afternoon with the 306 containers carrying the contaminated sand from Camp Doha, a U.S. Army base in Kuwait. The sand was packaged in bags designed to transport hazardous waste.
Longshoremen unloaded the containers in two shifts Sunday, then two more Monday, Hyslop said. They wore standard safety gear, and dust protection equipment and respirators were available, he said.
However, no one has opted to wear the respirators, he said.
“It’s gone real smooth,” Hyslop said.
Half of the containers will be loaded onto 76 rail cars and transported to an American Ecology disposal site in Idaho. The other half will remain at the port until the trains return to haul them to Idaho. The containers all will be at the disposal site in Idaho within 15 to 30 days, Hyslop said.
State Department of Health personnel are at the port to test radiation levels and to ensure none of the sand spills, Hyslop said. U.S. Customs agents also were on hand to inspect the cargo, he said.
The sand became contaminated with low levels of depleted uranium following a fire at Camp Doha during the first Gulf War in 1991, according to Hyslop and Army sources. The Army then discovered potentially hazardous levels of lead in the shipment.
Hyslop said he’s been happy with the job the port and other government agencies have done in helping with the transport of the material.
“We’re extremely pleased and impressed with the outstanding professionalism of the Port of Longview,” he said.