Chemical agents offer a spectrum of physiological effects from mild, temporary narcosis to severe bodily
damage and death. They are colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
The first indication of their use could be the appearance of casualties among military personnel.
Chemical agents affect people, animals, and plants but leave homes, factories, and other installations
untouched. Most CW agents are relatively easy to produce in large quantities at moderate cost. Chemical
agents are classified into seven major categories:
Toxins are not included in the above list because they are usually produced by living microorganisms and
are classified as BW agents by the United States armed forces.
You need to inform your personnel that when considering threats to water supplies, the nerve agents
tower above all others. Nerve agents function by inhibiting cholinesterase, a body enzyme. With
cholinesterase unavailable, the acetylcholine essential to the functioning of the nervous system cannot be
neutralized, and the body is stimulated to death. The physiological symptoms of nerve agents on the human
Unexplained runny nose.
Tightness in the chest.
Dimness of vision due to pinpointing of pupils.
Pain in the eyes.
Difficulty in breathing.
Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, and involuntary urination or defecation.
Twitching, jerking, and staggering.
Headache, confusion, drowsiness, and convulsions.
Coma and death.
Your concern and that of your personnel is the detection of chemical agents in water. It is important to
manage raw water to determine whether chemical agent concentrations are below the MPC ensuring the
water is suitable for use or to determine whether the concentrations are above MPC and the water is subject
to decontamination. It is also important to know that treated water is safe to drink after decontamination.
To determine the presence of CW agents in water, you need to direct your personnel to use the M-272
Detector Kit. (Note: The M-272 Detector Kit is a go/no go test for the short-term consumption MPCs for the
following agents: hydrogen cyanide, lewisite, sulfur mustard, and nerve. Do not use the kit when dealing with
long-term consumption figures or any situation where more than 5 liters of water per day are consumed.
Observations or receipt of any of the following might be an indicator of chemical agents:
Dead fish or other aquatic life including vegetation.
Unusual odor to the water, a characteristic of some CW agents.
Unusually high chlorine demand to the water.
Intelligence information indicating that a general CW attack or direct sabotage of the water supply took
Treatment of NBC-Contaminated Water. Treatment of NBC-contaminated water will be
performed by you and your personnel as a last resort if no other source exists. Water purification units will
treat water in an uncontaminated environment only (that is, in an area where the soil and air is not
contaminated). If no other option exists, and water must be purified in a contaminated area (that is, nuclear
weapons have been extensively used on the battlefield and uncontaminated areas are nonexistent), the
treated water should be containerized. This is to prevent the spread of further contamination after
purification. You are to ensure that water purified prior to the use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield is
consumed first. Use of groundwater sources should be priority. Surface water sources should only be used if
Decontamination Operations of a ROWPU. You are to ensure that ROWPU equipment that has
been contaminated with NBC agents is decontaminated to prevent the water point operator from becoming
contaminated and to prevent contaminants from getting into product water being produced. In line with these
two objectives, the external surfaces of the ROWPU must be decontaminated. Upon occasion, the internal