Congressman Ron Estes, R-Kansas, announced Thursday night that he has “numerous questions” about chemical and biological tests the Department of Homeland Security wants to conduct just across the state line in Oklahoma.
Homeland Security officials plan to execute a “low level outdoor release” of inert chemical and biological simulant materials at the old Chilocco Indian School campus north of Newkirk, Okla., after the first of the year and again next summer.
The campus is near the Kansas/Oklahoma border, about 6 miles south of Arkansas City and about 55 miles southeast of Wichita. Wind typically blows out of the south, which could carry airborne particles into Kansas.
Part of the test is to determine how much protection people would receive from being inside a house or an apartment if biological agents are used in a terrorist attack, according to a statement on the Homeland Security web site.
The tests are set for next year in January and February, when humidity is low, and again in June and July, when humidity is high.
“I have numerous questions regarding this proposed test,” Estes said. “While it’s important for our federal agencies to test their abilities in response to threats, we need to be one hundred percent certain this test is safe for the residents of south central Kansas.”
“This is the first time the city has been made aware of any testing to occur at Chilocco,” the statement said. “Inert means chemically inactive, which means by definition there should be no risk to the citizens. However, we are looking into the situation to gather more information for our citizens and their safety.”
The Federal Government plans to release titanium dioxide, as part of the particle test. Which it describes as, “a white odorless powder that is chemically insoluble in water, nonreactive, nonflammable and non hazardous.”
Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a naturally occurring mineral used as a bright white pigment for paint, in the food industry as a coloring, in sunscreens and cosmetics, and in other industrial uses. After processing, it is exists as white, powdery solid. Titanium dioxide has excellent ultraviolet (UV) resistant qualities and acts as a UV absorbent.
In the pharmaceutical industry, titanium dioxide is used in most sunscreens to block UVA and UVB rays, similar to zinc oxide. It is also commonly used as pigment for pharmaceutical products such as gelatin capsules, tablet coatings and syrups. In the cosmetics industry, it is used in toothpaste, lipsticks, creams, ointments and powders. It can be used as an opacifier to make pigments opaque.
Recent studies suggest titanium dioxide nanoparticles may be toxic, although further research is needed
They also pan to release Urea Powder mixed with a CL Fluorescent Brightener.
For the biological portion of the test, it plans to release genetic barcoded spores of a biological insecticide known as native Btk, which is sold under the trade name of Dipel. Dipel is not considered a hazard by the Environmental Protection Agency when handled appropriately, according to the assessment.
Dipel Dust contains Bacillus Thuringiensis, BT, a biological insecticide used for dusting Tomato Hornworms, Looper, caterpillars, worms that feed on and damage fruit, vegetable and flowers.
People have 30 days to submit comments on the environmental assessment to Homeland Security about the proposed tests by email at [email protected] or by mail to the Department of Homeland Security:
S&T CBD Mail Stop 0201
Washington, DC 20528-0201
The deadline for comments is Dec. 8. Chilocco was one of five boarding schools authorized by Congress in 1882 for Native American children not on reservations. Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence is another. The 8,000-acre Chilocco Indian Agriculture School opened in 1884 and remained in operation until 1980.
The school is owned by the Council of Confederated Chilocco Tribes which include the Kaw Nation, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, the Pawnee Nation, the Ponca Nation, and the Tonkawa Tribe.