Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.
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60 Proceedings Spring 2015 www.uscg.mil/proceedings the immediate vicinity of the No. 1 cargo hatch. No other signifcant hazards were noted. NOAA got us the lab results within 24 hours, which revealed that the white powder scattered on the deck of the vessel was 68 percent pure arsenic trioxide — a highly poisonous substance. So, while our response was initially focused on mitigating the magnesium phosphide contamination in cargo hold No. 1, now we also had deal with a 450-foot ship that was contaminated with arsenic trioxide. Go Level A This bumped us up to Level A response — National Strike Force's frst on a vessel at anchorage. MSTC Ken Lukins and MK1 "Junior" Garza suited up, surveyed the hold, and found about 500 lbs. of magnesium phosphide. Readings of phos- phine gas concentrations were hotter than expected — twice the IDLH (immediately dangerous to life or health) concen- tration. Just before departing, Lukins and Garza raked the magne- sium phosphide to expose fresh powder to the atmosphere, which allowed a slow reaction with the air and humidity. As rain and high humidity was forecast for the next fve days, we buttoned up the hold, since we were dealing with a highly water-reactive chemical. Now that we knew what we were dealing with, the team decided to frst mitigate the magnesium phosphide situa- tion and then deal with the much larger issue of the arsenic trioxide. During the next month, we cleared a path through the arse- nic trioxide to allow hold access. (Level A responses take time! See sidebar.) Down in the hold, we raked the magne- sium phosphide to allow moisture to contact fresh chemical slowly off-gas phosphine gas. If rain and weather prohibited white powder on deck, and huge streaks of white powder on the hull. Unknown Substance The white powder could be soda ash, used to clean up spilled arsenic trioxide, when the vessel was docked in Baltimore. Or, it could be arsenic trioxide or some other substance. So, a combined team of Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacifc Strike Team personnel suited up in Level B, brought back samples, and passed them to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) scientifc sup- port coordinator for analysis. Onboard air monitoring showed no concentration of phos- phine gas anywhere on deck, except in small amounts in You Think It's So Easy; You Try It! As the response continued, some of the news media personnel started to ask why the response efort was taking so long. So Public Information Assist Team (PIAT) personnel decided to have a media day at the command post. To demonstrate why response eforts took time, they ofered to suit up two members of the news media in Level A and Level B response gear. One member became extremely anxious and had to be taken out of the claustrophobia-inducing Level A suit. Another member of the media volunteered to step in. Once they were dressed out, PIAT personnel challenged them to play a game of one-on-one basketball. And, after this "press conference," there was never another mention of why the response efort was taking so long. National Strike Force members in Level A "moon suits" prepare to deactivate magnesium phosphide. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Offcer Richard L. Woods. Port side of the vessel after damaged general cargo container was removed. Arsenic trioxide drums and overpacks are in foreground. U.S. Coast Guard photo.