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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Army to probe mystery chemical

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Army specialists from Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland are en route to Hawai'i to identify and determine how to dispose of 100 vials of a "positively dangerous" chemical that had been stored for years under a Wilhelmina Rise home.

Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Emmit Kane said residents from three homes were evacuated and will likely not be able to return until the military team from Aberdeen clears the scene.

"We won't know exactly what it is until the military specialists get here," Kane said.

Police, fire and Army officials said last night that the situation at 1611-A Pa'ula Dr. has been "mitigated and stabilized" and was not a threat. They declined to identify the chemical. The suspicion is that it could be something like mustard gas (also known as yperite), first used by the German army in September 1917 and the most lethal of all the poisonous chemicals used during World War I.

Police Chief Boisse Correa said the chemicals were from old military test kits.

According to Kane, the vials are six inches long and an inch wide and are believed to be from test kits used in World War II.

U.S. Army, Pacific spokesman Lt. Col. John Williams said he expects the "tech escort unit" team from Aberdeen Proving Ground and their equipment to be in place by tomorrow.

"They specialize in all types of chemical and munitions," said Williams, who noted that the call went out to Aberdeen because of the specialized equipment needed for this assignment.

Aberdeen Proving Ground is the home of Army ordnance research and testing, and its chemical and biological defense command.

Lester Kurima, whose mother and adult brother are staying with neighbors after being evacuated from their home at 1611 Pa'ula Dr., said a retired military man, who died several years ago, had lived with his wife in the house where the vials were found.

Kane said a woman who has been trying to dispose of the vials called the Health Department yesterday. Health officials called police, and police requested the Fire Department's hazardous materials unit's assistance at 5:15 p.m.

Pa'ula Drive was closed to traffic at 4:49 p.m. Maukabound traffic on 16th Avenue at Claudine Street was being diverted onto Iwi Way.

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.