An effort to clean up a national seashore following a catastrophic oil spill has apparently turned up chemical weapons from 70 years ago.
 
Meet the Gulf Island National Seashore. Straddling the Mississippi and Florida coast, it is home to the ruins of old Spanish forts and Civil War forts and apparently a more recent military facility. It is also neighbor to the Deepwater Horizon spill.


In June, British Petroleum asked the the National Park Service for a list of possible chemical hazards to prepare for its clean up of Horn Island. The Park Service hired Barksdale & Associates to carry out the inspection, and the firm found asbestos (that essential school construction material from decades past) and signs of other stuff.


“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,” Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown said in a statement on Friday. “A preliminary test also indicated the possible presence of a chemical agent known commonly as mustard gas. We are still awaiting confirmation of that.”


Part of Horn Island was closed off from the public while the matter gets sorted out and cleaned up. Rangers placed closure signs at 1,000 feet in all directions around the site.
 
There was also this tidbit:
 
“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 said.


According to the Park Service, historical record indicate other possible contaminants include botulinum toxin, ricin, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), pesticides, polychlorina ted biphenyls, dioxins, furans, 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.