Army screws up - Poisonfire rears it's ugly head... : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is what worries me most - Poisonfire - the inability to contain chemical/bilogical/radioactive agents...

Y2K - Army Chemical Weapons Disposal Plant Faces Closure - Big Problems

By Daniel Verton


"According to the IG, the Army is only in the initial stages of its Year 2000 planning and still has not determined how to correct the problems with some of its critical systems. "

(IDG) -- Officials at an Army chemical disposal site for nerve gas and blister agents have seriously mismanaged Year 2000 fixes to critical computer systems, raising the possibility that the government will shut down the site at a cost of $2 million a week, according to a recently released report.

The Defense Department's Inspector General reported that the Army's project manager for the Johnston Atoll Agent Disposal System did not begin checking until last summer for Year 2000 bugs in its critical computer systems. The systems monitor air quality, process data and control code at Johnston Atoll, which is more than 700 miles southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii, and consists of four islands. One of the islands, Johnston Island, served as the military's atmospheric nuclear testing range for more than three decades. The Army began to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons in June 1990 and expects to complete its operations shortly after 2000.

In addition, the program office failed to prepare necessary documentation for Year 2000 fixes and has yet to develop a contingency plan, a risk management plan and a system testing plan, according to the DOD IG. The report also condemned the Army for incorrectly reporting the status of systems in the required monthly report to DOD.

"The Army faces increased risk that it may not be able to implement corrections before the turn of the century," resulting perhaps in the "temporary closure of the Johnston Atoll Disposal System at a weekly cost of $2 million," the report concluded.

The Army Program Office for Chemical Demilitarization at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is responsible for about 90 Automatic Continuous Air Monitoring systems throughout the facility. A spokesman for the Army's Chemical Stockpile Disposal Project Office said that although the Army got a late start on addressing the Year 2000 issue, they now have a schedule to fix computers and have no plans to shut down the site. However, the spokesman said the project office will not meet the Office of Management and Budget's March 31 deadline to have computer systems fixed, tested and operational. "All of our mission-critical computer systems will be Y2K-compliant before the turn of the century," the spokesman said.

According to the IG, the Army is only in the initial stages of its Year 2000 planning and still has not determined how to correct the problems with some of its critical systems.

link at

-- Andy (, January 13, 1999


Hi Andy,

that's a Chem weapons plant, not bio... the so called "poisonfire" scenario (the actual correct military term is a "spoilsport attack", by the way) involves a party or parties utilizing a combination of bio weapons (and possibly nukes) to eliminate the supposed winner in a hypothetical world war three. Chemical weapons would not have this effect...though they would make the area around the plant uninhabitable for quite a while thereafter.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, January 13, 1999.

Couple of good points - more bad points.

They are mostly chemical weapons - good! That means if released, they won't multiply, only spread out and kill, mutilate, or destroy body tissue.

They are "more or less" safe now - not being spread around or moved or dismantled - so if nothing happens to de-stabilize the storage sites, the bombs, shells, and gas bottles will stay in place and nothing will happen.

The problems appear to be in monitoring systems - so if nothing bad happens, then a failure of the monitoring system (it fails, so nothing is detected, amd no alarm sounds) doesn't hurt people. Unfortunately, if something bad does happens, a failure of the monitoring and alarm system means many nearby people will die. Die horribly too.

So pray nothing "bad" happens.

Nuke monitoring is less critical than chemical bomb montitoring. Small amounts of radioactivity are much less dangerous, and can be detected by hand-held Geiger counters.

Unfortunately, these chemical weapons are stored inside decaying and very "old" exlosive devices (bombs, shells, etc.) that are designed to blow up, are inherently unstable after long times in storage, and are dangerous just as shells - not only as containers of deadly nerve gasses and poisons. So you have to worry about fuses tripping, nitrogly. blowingup on it own, other related dangers of handling simple explosive shells.

These are kept in bunkers, so only the gasses "should" be released if an explosion blows up a single bunker. (The other bunkers nearby "should not" also explode.)

Reactivity is probably worse in hot weather - so winter is a small help, but extreme temperatures are not healthy for explosive devices either.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, January 13, 1999.

Thanks Arlin and Robert - I had been under the impression that poisonfire embraced the whole gamut of chem/bio/nuke agents.

At the end of the day though a breakdown of our society puts us all in serious danger from all three - not to mention refineries, regular chemical plants, industrial plants - all have the possibility of seriously contaminating the environment if they go tits up spectacularly.

Let's hope common sense prevails in many cases - for example Venezuela will be shutting down several oil refineries prior to rollover to prevent them literally blowing up or being seriously damaged - they are simply not ready for rollover. This is to be applauded.

Similarly the nuke plants must be shut down in the USA on July 1st, to allow 4 months of uninterrupted core cooling. All indications are that this is not going to happen, for a variety of reasons.

Dear oh dear.

-- Andy (, January 13, 1999.

Its worth ponting out that this disposal plant is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about 800 miles from Hawaii. It does relate to how the military has a lot of exotic systems that are essentially unfixable.

-- RD. ->H (, January 13, 1999.

When I first introduced the term "Poisonfire" into this discussion a couple of months ago, I meant, as Andy put it, "... that poisonfire embraced the whole gamut of chem/bio/nuke agents."

In other words, any toxic agent which requires active consistent monitoring and containment to prevent its spreading into the environment. My concern centers around an infrastructure and social breakdown of sufficient degree to make positive control of these agents problematical.

Military concerns are but one critical aspect. Control of nuclear elements, whether power plant, weaponry or waste facilities are another. Containment of chemical weaponry, production facilities (military or civilian), storage, and ubiquity in the environment, form homes to plants, are yet another. Biohazards, whether in production or research facilities still another. These are not, by any means, all inclusive; and they are international concerns.

My point being: we've got a particularly dangerous chimera caged in our "Zoo of Horrors." We'd better make damn sure our zoo-keeper is well-fed and alert.


"The lesson of history is that he (mankind) never avoids catastrophes; he just spends his time recovering from them" --- Gordon Rattray Taylor

At the end of the day though a breakdown of our society puts us all in serious danger from all three - not to mention refineries, regular chemical plants, industrial plants - all have the possibility of seriously contaminating the environment if they go tits up spectacularly.

-- Hallyx (, January 13, 1999.

Sorry Hallyx, hadn't seen your original use of the term, and by the time I got here, it seemed to be used synonymously with what is normally known as a spoilsport attack.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, January 13, 1999.

This thread looks like a good place for this link. An insurance company discusses possible factory process control problems...

-- Kevin (, January 14, 1999.

Arlin, thanks for bringing to my attention something I had overlooked. (spoilsport attack, indeed) Near the top of my concerns I should have included SECURITY (in caps).

I heard a sick idiot in a Y2K chatroom ventured that some tree-hugger might monkey-wrench the pumps to a municipal water system. But there are some sick idiots, of a variety of flavors, who might think that bringing the system to it's knees is just what the Ayatollah ordered; who think that Y2K might need just a little help.

Let's make sure our zoo-keeper is well-fed, wide awake AND well-armed.


"...And these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them." (H. G. Wells, 'The World Set Free,' 1914)

-- Hallyx (, January 14, 1999.

Right Kevin. It's hard to believe anyone can be sanguine about embedded systems just because they "seem" to be less vulnerable than they did a few months ago.

Do you suppose insurance companies might be instrumental in curtailing at-risk manufacturing, as they are thought to be thinking about preventing risky airline operations? Yeah, let the lawyers and insurance hacks fight it out.

I suppose that those chemical companies which are considering closing down rather than risking accidents are doing it on the advice of their insurers. How big does a company have to be before they can afford not to care?


"If you can't even manage to to force your own presumably democratic governments to allow you to do good things for yourselves, then you probably deserve to become extinct."---Ishmael (My Ishmael, Daniel Quinn)

-- Hallyx (, January 14, 1999.

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