National Park Service Finds Hazardous Materials on Horn Island

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSS
Date: August 17, 2012
Contact: Daniel R. Brown, 850-934-2604

National Park Service Finds Hazardous Materials on Horn Island Part of the Mississippi Barrier Island Is Closed to the Public

Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown announced today that part of Horn Island, one of the Seashore's islands off the Mississippi coast, is closed to the public effective immediately because of the discovery of hazardous materials.

"We received confirmation Thursday that there are asbestos materials on the ground on the northwestern shore of the island in an area that contains the remains of a military facility that was active in the 1940s," Brown said."A preliminary test also indicated the possible presence of a chemical agent known commonly as mustard gas.We are still awaiting confirmation of that."

"Our highest priority right now is the safety of the public and our employees," Brown said."We are therefore using an abundance of caution with the closure of the area surrounding the site.Park rangers are placing area closure signage around the perimeter around the site, about 1,000 feet in all directions."

"Additionally, based on an initial records search that was done, we have reason to believe that some containers of mustard gas may have been deposited in the island's Big Lagoon.We are therefore closing the portion of the lagoon that we own and we are notifying the owners of those nearby privately-owned tracts of the potential hazard."

Brown will conduct a press briefing at 10 a.m. CST on Monday, August 20, at the William Colmer Visitor Center in the Davis Bayou Area, 3500 Park Road, Ocean Springs, MS to provide details about the discovery.

"There are a lot of things about this situation we still don't know since we just received confirmation on one substance," Brown said."We are assembling a team of experts from a variety of disciplines to help us with this situation, and as we continue this process we will do our best to keep the public informed about what we find out and our plans for cleanup."

In June British Petroleum asked the National Park Service (NPS) to provide a list of potential chemical and biological hazards on Horn Island before the company deployed their cleanup crews team as part of the Deepwater Horizon response. The NPS contracted with the environmental services firm Barksdale & Associates to conduct a preliminary site assessment and inspection, including tests for multiple contaminants.This led to the discovery of the contaminants.The list of other potential contaminants came from an initial review of the site's historical records and includes: botulinum toxin, ricin, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), pesticides, polychlorina ted biphenyls (PCB), dioxins and furans, as well as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) metals (silver, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, lead, and selenium).

The military facility was active during World War II and was decommissioned in the 1960s.The National Park Service acquired the island from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1971 and it was incorporated into Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Did You Know?