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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 31, July 30, 2006, Article 17

1979 BUREAU OF ENGRAVING AND PRINTING CYANIDE LEAK INCIDENT

Bob Leuver writes: "I reported for duty on April 22, 1979, as BEP
Assistant Director for Finance and Administration.  In the early
months of that year, the plate curing room on the fifth floor of
the BEP Annex suffered a cyanide leak either in the valves or piping
from the cyanide cylinders.  Cyanide was used in a bath to cure or
clean some of the plates from the Engraving Department and other
allied departments, such as Siderography.

The unit responsible for curing/cleaning plates was on an eight-hour
day shift, five days a week.  One employee of the three-man crew,
opened the door to the division at about 8 AM and immediately
identified the odor emanating from the room as cyanide.  The
Washington, D.C., fire department and its Haz-mat unit were called.
The fire-department expeditiously vented the room and stopped the
leak.

The Research and Engineering Division determined that an automated
system to identify cyanide and other chemicals was required.  The R&E
Division drew up plans and submitted them to the Procurement
Department for bidding.

Nothing in the Federal government is simple.  A Federal agency cannot
purchase a system off-the-shelf.  The new system had to be procured
under exacting procurement regulations. I was responsible for expediting
the acquisition.  The automated system was installed finally in 1980.
In the meantime, canaries were used to detect any occurrence of a
cyanide leak as an R&E Division solution to the interim problem.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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