NEWKIRK, Okla. — Quick Facts:
- Department of Homeland Security plans to release chemicals to test the protection offered by buildings in Newkirk, Oklahoma.
- A legal notice appeared in the local newspaper, saying the department would release "non-hazardous, non-toxic chemicals and biological materials"
- The tests are planned for 2018
- The data should help the department assess the impact of biological weapons
- Watch FOX23 News for the latest reaction to the tests
A notice in an Oklahoma newspaper set many Newkirk residents on edge.
The Department of Homeland Security announced the small town near the Kansas border will host a biological weapons simulation at the now-abandoned Chilocco Indian School.
In 2018, the department wants to release "non-hazardous, non-toxic" chemicals and biological materials on buildings in the area.
They want to see what might happen if a terrorist were to release similar chemicals as a biological weapon, and if buildings would offer residents any kind of protection.
Residents say the announcement worries them. A Change.org petition gathered thousands of signatures.
"I just got sick to my stomach," Newkirk resident Dennis Jordan told KOCO in Oklahoma City. "I think if they want to test that stuff, let them go to Los Alamos, you know? I think it's stupid."
For the particle test, the government plans to release titanium dioxide, which it describes as a "white odorless powder that is chemically insoluble in water, nonreactive, nonflammable and nonhazardous."
For the biological test, the government plans to release genetic, barcoded spores of an insecticide sold under the trade name of Dipel. Dipel is not considered hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency when handled appropriately, according to an assessment.
The assessment said the test will have no adverse impact on human health or the environment.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Estes of Kansas said Thursday he is "monitoring the situation closely."
"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 100 percent certain this test is safe for the residents of south-central Kansas."
The city of Arkansas City has also said it's reviewing media reports of the testing.
"This is the first time the city has been made aware of any testing to occur at Chilocco," the city posted on its Facebook page Thursday. "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."
© 2020 Cox Media Group