De Soto The burning of two asbestos-containing buildings at the Sunflower Army Ammunitions Plant has been postponed, but not because of environmental concerns.
The burns, originally planned for today, were rescheduled for Jan. 7 because of administrative matters, the manager of the DeSoto plant said Wednesday. The plant's buildings are being burned as part of a demolition effort to develop the area for commercial use.
The administrative matters include a pending decision on use of a new type of firefighting foam, "Barricade," designed to suppress fire, slowing the burns and making debris more manageable.
After a test burn in July at the plant, state health department officials tested debris for asbestos, which acts as a carcinogen in the air. The ash -- some of which escaped the plant's 9,000 acres -- contained asbestos, but it was trapped in paper form and not considered hazardous. The asbestos leftovers were disposed of in the plant's permitted landfill.
Since that time, oscillating nozzles have been installed that will place a water curtain over a building at the time of a burn, helping to contain debris.
"As far as we know, we're the first plant to undertake this type of project," said Gayla Frazier, resident manager for Alliant Techsystems, the operating contractor at the plant. "There's quite a learning curve involved."
One large building and three smaller structures, all wood-framed, were set ablaze during the pilot burn. The buildings planned for the January burn are in the neighborhood of 15,000 square feet apiece.
Burning was determined to be the safest method of demolition after plant officials discovered that, in addition to being structurally unsound, the level of explosive residue within the buildings' walls was dangerous. Ordinarily, asbestos would simply be removed.
During World War II and the Korean War, the Army used the plant to produce smokeless powder for ammunition. The plant has been relatively inactive since 1971.