Syria at Home: Gas Used in Syrian Attack also in Richmond

Sarin, the gas that was used to brutally murder over 1,400 innocent Syrian people in August, is also stored in Kentucky. The Bluegrass Army Depot in Richmond houses 523 tons of sarin and VX, another chemical weapon that acts similarly to sarin when released into the air.

Sarin and VX gases have extremely negative effects on the nervous systems of people who are exposed. They break down the enzyme that allows nerves to “talk” to each other, enabling only a small drop of either chemical to kill a six foot, 200 pound man in minutes. Respiratory failure is the common cause of death when a victim inhales these gases because both of them paralyze the muscles around the victim’s lungs.

Both chemicals are internationally banned; however, they have not yet been destroyed here in the Bluegrass. In Madison County, a plant is being built that will destroy the chemicals. It is intended to be finished and operational by 2020. Yet, sarin and VX will not be completely destroyed until 2023.

The facility that houses these dangerous gases, The Bluegrass Army Depot, is less than 40 miles away from Dunbar. This fact is not well known by most students here.

When told that the depot stores sarin, senior Ashley Hardee said, “Oh wow. It scares me because accidents happen.”

Hardee says that she would hate to see a repeat of what happened in Syria occur here in Kentucky. Although the concerns are valid, the proximity doesn’t cause concern to everyone.

“It doesn’t really scare me. The artillery storing the gas has been there, protected, for a long time along with many other deadly munitions,” said AP US History teacher Ms. Kate Marinangeli. “So,

while it would be great if they were in the middle of a desert somewhere or didn’t exist at all, the fact that they are pretty close doesn’t worry me too much.”

Citizenship teacher Mrs. Sharessa Crovo agreed.

“I’m not really concerned with my safety,” she said. “I trust our government.”

Some believe that the process of destroying the chemical should be sped up, but senior Kiali Jelinek doesn’t want to see history repeat itself.

“Considering what happened in Chernobyl, let’s have them take their time,” said Jelinek.

The Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine exploded in 1986 because of flawed design and hurried mistakes. The Bluegrass Depot is not nuclear powered, so potential mistakes won’t cause damage on as large of a scale as Chernobyl, but the possible destruction is still a prominent issue.

Although there is an international agreement to ban sarin, there are five countries that have no plans to sign this agreement. In addition to Syria, the other four countries are Angola, Egypt, North Korea, and South Sudan.

Currently, Assad seems to be cooperating with outside forces in relation to his storage of chemical weapons.

“The cooperation has been quite constructive, and I will say that the Syrian authorities have been cooperative,” said Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

While Syria seems to be on the mend, the issue of sarin existing still pertains to the U.S. and other countries. It is important that the Bluegrass Army Depot disposes of the sarin carefully. Safety remains the main concern, but many Kentucky residents would still like to see the chemical destroyed as quickly as possible so that Lexington doesn’t experience a duplication of the chemical damage that was inflicted on Syria.