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The Disposal of Sodium, 1947

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Published on Jan 8, 2007

This film clip shows US Army disposing of drums of metallic sodium into Lake Lenore, an alkaline lake in the Grand Coulee area of eastern Washington State, in 1947. The barrels were rolled off a cliff onto the frozen surface of the lake where they were machine-gunned to expose the sodium. The reaction of sodium with water produced an estimated 162,000 cubic feet of hydrogen gas which then caught fire, producing a spectacular series of explosions. Several dozen passing motorist stopped to watch as a gentle mist of corrosive sodium hydroxide came down. The Army paid for repainting the cars. The War Assets Administration and the Washington State Department of Game had evaluated the impact of this disposal on the lake beforehand and concluded little effect on the lake and wildlife, but were concerned about the safety of the workers that would be involved. This clip is from a January 13, 1947 newsreel available at the Internet Archive and the details of this disposal are reported in the 1991 book, Uses of Ecology: Lake Washington and Beyond, by W.T. Edmondson.

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