Chemical Weapons Disposal
and Environmental Justice
Suzanne Marshall PhD.
Department of History
Jacksonville State University
(This publication was made possible by a grant from the Educational Foundation of America)
"...each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by
identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human
health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority
populations and low-income populations in the United States and its territories and
--President William Clinton
(Executive Order12898, 1994, February 11, Sec. 1-1, 1-101)
"Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people
regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development,
implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair
treatment means that no groups of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic
groups, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences
resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal,
state, local, and tribal programs and policies."
--Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA, Guidance 1996, CUP 7)
This paper argues that the Army's continued determination to use incineration as the
disposal technology for stockpiled chemical weapons:
1) is in direct conflict with President Clinton's mandate for consideration of
environmental justice in the decision making of Federal agencies as outlined in
Executive Order 12898; and
2) violates the precepts of environmental justice as defined by the Environmental
The United States began to research, produce and store chemical weapons during World
War I. Mustard gas was the first and the most important chemical weapon until the 1940s
when the development of other chemical agents began. During the 1950s and early 60s,
the production of chemical weapons greatly increased and they were, and continue to be,
stockpiled at eight continental storage depots and on Kalama Atoll in the Pacific. The four
stockpiled chemical agents are:
By 1968, production of unitary chemical weapons in the US had stopped and the Army
was disposing of the obsolete weapons by deep ocean dumping, land burial and open-pit
burning. However, increased environmental awareness and concern led to the banning of
these methods. In 1969, a National Academy of Science study concluded that ocean
dumping should be abandoned and in 1972 Congress passed the Marine Protection Act
which prohibited any further ocean disposal (Bradbury, et al., 1994).
Between 1973 and 1982, the Army extensively researched neutralization, but by 1982 had
made the decision to use incineration as the preferred technology for chemical weapons
disposal without input from local citizens. To satisfy the requirement of public
participation in the decision making process as mandated by the National Environmental
Protection Act (NEPA), the Army held public Scoping Meetings at all stockpile sites for
after-the-fact meetings regarding Environmental Impact Statements. In these meetings,
local citizens were asked, not for input into the choice of technology, but for input into
whether agent should be incinerated on-site or transported to national or regional sites and
incinerated there (Futrell, 1996). At that time little was understood about the risks of incineration,
but local citizens were uneasy enough to not want it in their own backyards and generally preferred
transportation to on-site incineration. However, in 1988 the Army made the decision to incinerate
on-site, citing safety hazards involved with transportation as justification (Ambrose, 1988).
Based on this decision, the Army made plans to build a chemical weapons incinerator at
each stockpile site. At the time of the decision, an incinerator had already been built on
Kalama Atoll in the Pacific to dispose of chemical weapons belonging to the US that had
been shipped there in 1971 from Okinawa when it reverted to Japan. The decision to
incinerate on Kalama was made without input from the Pacific Islanders (Alailima,
President Clinton's Executive Order and
The assessment of environmental justice in the siting of hazardous waste industries has
become a common thread in research being done throughout the country. Extensive
documentation of environmental discrimination began with governmental and private
investigations during the 1980s and continues in the 90s.
Besides those cited above, there are dozens of studies that are more local in nature.
Scholars in various disciplines have been researching the issue for over a decade, building
on what grassroots activists already knew about the effects of environmental
discrimination: that the implementation of federal environmental laws has not historically
provided equal protection to all citizens and that minority and low-income populations are
more vulnerable than others to health threats from environmental pollution.
According to Robert D. Bullard, professor of sociology at Clark University,
Atlanta, Georgia,(?) "Some communities have been turned into 'human sacrifice
zones'...[these communities] share two common characteristics:
1) they already have more than their share of environmental problems and polluting
2) they are still attracting new polluters.
"Past discriminatory facility-siting and land-use practices appear to guide future policy
decisions (1993, p. 12)."
The poor and people of color (African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans,
Pacific Islanders and Native Americans), precisely because they are economically and
politically disempowered, are particularly vulnerable to environmental and health threats.
However, Bullard, who has spent more than 15 years researching environmental issues
and is a leading expert in the field, contends that
"Environmental inequities cannot be reduced solely to class factors...Race continues to be a
potent predictor of where people live, which communities get dumped on, and which are
spared. Racial bias creates and perpetuates unequal environmental quality...
"Chronic unemployment, poverty, and the lack of a sound economic infrastructure all place
communities of color at (greater) risk from polluting industries which exploit this economic
vulnerability (1993, pp. 11-12)."
The growing body of evidence that race and class biases determine environmental
inequities, with race being the more potent factor (Bullard, 1993), plus pressure from
activists across the country focused President Clinton on the issue of environmental justice
soon after he took office in 1993. In 1994, in Executive Order 12898, the President called
for all Federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of their missions by
"identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human
health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority
populations and low-income populations..." and to develop their own environmental justice
strategies. According to the Order, these strategies must:
1) promote enforcement of all health and environmental statutes in areas with
minority populations and low-income populations;
2) ensure greater public participation;
3) improve research and data collection relating to the health of and environment of
minority populations and low-income populations; and
4) identify differential patterns of consumption of natural resources among
minority populations and low-income populations...(Clinton 1994, Sec. 1-1, 1-
Within the context of environmental justice as mandated by Clinton's Executive Order, the
Army's choice of incineration is a clear example of the imposition by a federal agency of
"disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects...on minority
and low-income populations." At six out of the nine sites there is a greater percentage of
minorities and/or people living below the poverty level in the affected population than the
national average and the sites have a history of being the homes of polluting industries.
These sites are:
1) Anniston Army Depot in Alabama;
2) Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas;
3) Pueblo Army Depot in Colorado;
4) Umatilla Depot Activity in Oregon;
5) Tooele Army Depot in Utah; and
6) Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System, in the Pacific.
Although there is evidence that racial and economic discrimination was involved in the
original siting of some of these facilities, determining whether there was discrimination in
the siting, or whether the communities became minority and low-income after the siting, is
beyond the scope of this paper. Whatever the reasons for siting, the military installations
eventually render their host communities economically dependent, making it difficult for
residents to voice concerns about military activities, projects and pollution. When residents
have voiced their concerns, they have been ignored because since World War II, the
military-industrial complex has become so powerful that public protests about
descriminatory military decisions have little effect on federal policy makers. This type of
environmental discrimination has been an issue in military decisons and actions related to
the development, testing and disposal of chemical weapons just as it has in nuclear military
The Army's decision in the 1980s to use incineration as the baseline technology for
destruction of its stockpiled chemical weapons was made without public input from the
affected communities. And despite Clinton's 1994 call for Federal agencies to make
environmental justice part of their mission and to develop strategies for greater public
participation, the Army has refused to move from its decision to incinerate in the face of
wide-spread opposition from minority and low-income populations at these sites.
Opposition in these communities centers around concerns for the health and safety risks
that are inherent in the incineration process. Although the Army claims that incineration is a
safe and appropriate technology, its risk assessments for incineration have been proven to
be flawed (Harrison, 1996) and the problems that have occurred at the Johnston Atoll
Chemical Agent Disposal System, the Army's pilot incineration site, affirm the validity of
citizen concerns for their health and safety.
Even though the affected citizens had no knowledge of, nor did they approve, the storage
of these deadly weapons in their communities, they are now willing to have the weapons
destroyed in their own backyards rather than having them transported to someone else's
backyard. However, they feel that in the name of environmental justice it is incumbent
upon the Army to implement the most benign technology possible in their communities and
it is a fact that technologies more benign than incineration do exist. The decision to
incinerate chemical weapons in these already polluted communties breeches Clinton's
mandate for environmental justice.
"The people are dying. Even the houses are dying."
--80 year old African-American resident of Anniston
while observng the bulldozing of houses in his neighborhood
as a result of PCB contamination caused by a Monsanto factory
Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama lies in the southern Appalachians in the east central
portion of the state approximately 60 miles east of Birmingham and 90 miles west of
Atlanta, Georgia. The city was founded as an iron and pipe company town. It still exhibits
many of the characteristics of southern cities born during the Jim Crow years of strict racial
segregation. Clear demarcation lines separate the races in residential areas, social relations
and political participation.
The African-American population of the state is 25%. Anniston has a population of
26,623, 44% of which is African-American. Anniston's percentage of African Americans
is 267% higher than the national average of 12%. Calhoun County has a population of
116,034--19% African-American. Many Anniston citizens--24%--live below the poverty
level, almost twice as high as the national average of 13.2% (Bureau of the Census, 1990).
The Anniston Army Depot (ANAD), the site of a proposed incinerator, is situated 3.7 miles
west of the city, close to the African-American west side. One small African-American
town, Hobson City, is near the depot. Pockets of poor whites and working class people,
many employed by ANAD, also live very near the depot in Bynum, Eastaboga and other
small communities. Fifteen miles south of ANAD is Talladega whose population is 41%
African-American. Residents of that area have not participated in the incinerator
discussions to any extent (Bradbury, et. al. 1994, Appendix B).
Anniston and the surrounding area first encountered the military in 1917 when Camp
McClellan was built north of the town. During World War II, the camp was upgraded to
fort status, grew to dominate the region and created an economically dependent
relationship. A second facility, ANAD, was established in 1941 as an ammunition storage
facility. After the war it expanded, adding new military tasks such as tank rebuilding and
contract industrial work. In 1963, the Army began to maintain a store of chemical
weapons--VX, GB and mustard gas. Although the Army decided to incinerate on-site in
1988, the sky-rocketing costs of the current incineration program are resurrecting the issue
of transportation to regional sites. The most likely eastern regional site would be Anniston
or Pine Bluff, Arkansas (Pace, 1995).
In Anniston, local officials promoted the Army's incineration decision to the public,
claiming patriotic duty and economic need. However, they did not fully inform the
residents of the hazards of working or living near an incineration facility. Jobs were
promised without disclosing that many high tech jobs would go to outsiders. The right to
safe and clean jobs was not addressed. Any challenge to the Army or their local supporters
elicited cries of unpatriotic sentiment.
The people living in the region have been significantly and disproportionately impacted by
pollution from local industries and the military. For example, preliminary information from
the Toxics Release Inventory National Report released by the Department of Defense
(DOD), shows ANAD as second in the nation (after number one--Pine Bluff Arsenal in
Arkansas) for toxic releases--548,073 pounds in 1994. Reported chemicals included zinc
compounds, hexachoroethane, 1,1,1-Trichloroethane, chlorine and others (DOD, 1996).
In addition, communities such as Cobbtown and Sweet Valley, two local African-American
neighborhoods, have been contaminated by PCBs. One resident of the area whose blood
was tested for PCBs found that she had an extremely elevated level of 240.0 mcg/l.
Expected average levels should be less than 3 mcg/l to 20.0 mcg/l (Alabama Dept. of Public
Currently, Monsanto Company, which has been in Anniston since 1939, is trying to buy
out the surrounding toxic land on which Cobbtown and Sweet Valley are located. Citizens
from these communities have initiated a lawsuit against Monsanto for life-long health
monitoring and damages. Pollution by the old iron foundries, other industries and ANAD
combine to create multiple and cumulative exposures that already threaten and harm human
Furthermore, in Anniston the Citizens Advisory Commission (CAC), appointed by the
state's governor, does not serve as the conduit for community concerns. For example, in
January 1995, the local opposition group, SAFE (Serving Alabama's Future Environment)
hosted Steve Jones, the Tooele, Utah safety inspection officer, who blew the whistle on the
Tooele plant for safety and operational violations. The Anniston CAC agreed to feature
Jones at their January meeting. However, the acting chair unilaterally decided to cancel
Jones' appearance despite citizens' demands that he be allowed to speak. The Anniston
CAC is establishing a pattern of denying incinerator opponents a chance to make their
"We'd like to ask President Clinton to take a look at the discriminatory way his military
is dealing with hazardous waste in his own backyard. Toxic chemicals, unlike
government agencies, recognize no color lines. The burning of chemical weapons in
central Arkansas will affect people of all colors."
African-American resident of Pine Bluff
Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas, is located in another economically depressed
southern state; a region once marked by plantation slavery and now a rice and poultry
producing and processing area. Most of Jefferson County's 85,487 people--43% African-
American, reside in the city of Pine Bluff--53% African-American. The Pine Bluff
percentage of African Americans is 341% higher than the national average. Jefferson
County is also very poor, with 24% of its population living below the poverty level. In
Pine Bluff, 28% of the residents live below the poverty level (Bureau of the Census,
1990). Institutional racism, a history of discrimination, class inequities and multiple and
cumulative exposures to toxics exist here as in Alabama.
The Pine Bluff Arsenal, built in 1942 during World War II, was designed to make smoke
and incendiary weapons. It also operated as a storage facility. During the Korean War,
biological weapons were built until the late 1960s when the Nixon administration halted
production. In 1987, Pine Bluff arsenal began to produce binary chemical weapons briefly
until the US-Russia treaty on chemical weapons reduction prohibited their production.
Moreover, incineration of another chemical--BZ--was carried out at the arsenal between
1988 and 1990. Pine Bluff, Arkansas is now faced with the prospect of an incinerator
meant to destroy 12% of the nation's chemical weapons, the second largest stockpile in the
country (Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix E).
Although the Army presented its plans to the Pine Bluff community for BZ disposal and for
incineration of the remaining stockpile, most residents, especially African Americans, do
not believe they were seriously included in the planning despite the Army's public relations
efforts. In fact, during Scoping Meetings, Army officials primarily dealt with leaders of
White Hall, Arkansas, a smaller community near the Arsenal which is 94% white. African-
American residents in Pine Bluff, such as Dr. Abdullah Mohammad, Brainard Bivens,
Evelyn Yates and Angela Dooley, believe the decision was made primarily by outsiders
with the cooperation of a few white officials and the public relations effort was designed to
give the false impression of democratic participation (Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix E).
As in Anniston, Pine Bluff is mired in an economically dependent relationship to the
military. To oppose the Army's incineration plans is to risk threats of potential job loss and
accusations of lack of patriotism.
"In the past it has been hard to get people to talk about the chemical weapons in Pine
Bluff. Many people in this area are employed by the Pine Bluff Arsenal and fear that
without incineration there will be no jobs...Our community has already suffered
enough from contamination and environmental injustice."
African-American resident of Pine Bluff
The Toxics Release Inventory advance report lists Pine Bluff Arsenal as releasing 721,364
pounds of chemicals into the air, water and land. The Pine Bluff Arsenal is listed as the top
polluter in the DOD report. Other regional polluters include International Paper which in
1993 released 1,000 pounds of chlorine, 21,005 pounds of chlorine dioxide and 69,000
pounds of chloroform, to name just a few. Central Moloney Transformer Division released
10,263 pounds of ethylbenzene, 25,196 pounds of toluene and 110, 259 pounds of
tetrachloroethylene in 1993. Century Tube released 500 pounds of zinc, 22,250 pounds of
xylene and 32,250 pounds of toluene in 1993 (DOD, 1996).
Cumulative toxics are detrimental to the health of the people and to the agricultural industry
in the area. Russia recently halted imports of US poultry due to concerns about heavy
metals and salmonella (Democrat-Gazette,1996). Further pollution due to incineration of
nerve gas will only compound existing problems.
Pine Bluff has a disproportionate share of lethal military materiel produced, stored and
destroyed there. And the pattern continues. Recently, the Army announced that it would
transport old, deteriorating World War II-era mustard gas bombs from Raritan, New Jersey
to Pine Bluff by-passing closer depots, despite previous promises by the Army not to ship
The Pueblo Army Depot, which began as an ammunition storage and supply site in 1942,
is located east of Pueblo, Colorado, a city with a population of 98,640--40% Latino-
American--in the county of Pueblo with a population of 123,051. The communities closest
to the Depot are North Avondale, Avondale and Boone, all of which have been declining as
the depot has reduced employment. The two more populous communities--North
Avondale and Avondale--have a population of 2,350--37% Latino-American. Boone, an
incorporated city, has just 338 residents--43% Latino-American, with an additional influx
of approximately 1,000 migrant workers each spring and summer, nearly all of whom are
Latino Americans from Texas and the Mexican border region. Significantly, all of the
communities have a high percentage of Latino Americans--four to five times that of the US
national average of 8.81% (Bureau of the Census, 1990; Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix
F), who have been victims of pollution historically .
Poverty exists at high levels in Pueblo County compared to the US national average of
13.12%. About 20% of Pueblo County citizens live below the poverty level (Bureau of the
Census, 1990). Many of the poor are Latino Americans, including the transient population
of migrant farm workers. These people often rely on fishing for a significant food source,
a source very susceptible to pollutants from industry and military toxics.
The history of the depot is one of boom and bust. In 1942 the US Army Corps of
Engineers built the depot on cattle grazing land. Following World War II, in 1948, the
depot added to its duties maintenance and overhaul of artillery, renovation and
demilitarization of ammunition, among other things. However, since the Korean War
employment has continually decreased despite some activity during Desert Storm. In the
early l970s nearly 3,000 people worked at the depot. In 1988 the depot was scheduled to
close and by 1990 the number of employees had dropped to 598. In 1994 the employees
numbered only about 200, kept to maintain the chemical weapons. The community must
deal with a stockpile which makes the potential for base re-use difficult and with a disposal
technology that is unsafe and unhealthy. The depot site is also contaminated by a landfill
made up of destroyed mustard gas bombs, an industrial disposal ditch, TNT pollutants and
buried non-stockpile chemical weapons. Ground water has already been contaminated by
some of these sources and remediation is in the works. Portions of the depot should be
added to the Superfund National Priorities List because they are so polluted that they need
immeadiate clean-up. Historically, since World War II, the people of this region have been
subject to dangerous pollutants and continue to be threatened (Bradbury, et al. 1994,
The region surrounding the Pueblo Army Depot is a rural prairie cut through by the
Arkansas River, which is used for agricultural irrigation for such crops as vegetables,
melons, winter wheat, corn, sorghum, beans and hay. Farming constitutes about 30% of
the regional income and cattle ranching produces 70% (Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix
F). The foods and animals raised in the area will be negatively affected by the emissions of
toxins from the incinerators' stack. Because pollutants such as dioxins accumulate as they
progress through the food chain, both Coloradans near the incinerator and people anywhere
who consume these foods will suffer harm. The agricultural workers, including the
migrant laborers, will be doubly at risk as they work the fields and eat the foods.
"Throughout the Cold War, one corner of Earth was bombarded with nerve gas, germ
warfare, nuclear fallout and other radioactive dust - spread to the winds by bombs,
airplanes, artillery and even intentional nuclear reactor meltdowns. It was Utah."
Deseret News, December 22, 1994
The Tooele Army Depot (TEAD) lies about 35 miles southwest of Salt Lake City in
northwest Utah in Tooele County. The depot is actually located in two sections--TEAD
North and TEAD South--about 15 miles apart and situated between the Oquirrh Mountains
and the Stansbury Mountains. The chemical weapons storage site, the Chemical Agent
Munitions Disposal System (CAMDS), and the new Tooele Chemical Demilitarization
Facility (TOCDF), the incinerator complex, are at TEAD South. Another military
installation in the county is Dugway Proving Ground, first established in 1942 for the
testing of chemical weapons and currently contaminated from various chemical agents,
non-stockpile munitions and biological weapons (Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix G)
On August 24, 1996, TOCDF was fired up to burn nerve agent for the first time. Within
72 hours of the start-up, the facility had to be shut down due to a nerve agent leak. Two
weeks later the facility was again shut down when liquid seeped through a concrete floor
into an electrical equipment room. With these kinds of flaws in the design of TOCDF,
there is a possiblity of a serious accident involving the release of nerve agent. Prior to the
start-up, a preliminary injunction was brought against the Army by the Chemical Weapons
Working Group to try to stop the burning of agent. At that hearing Army experts testified
that these kinds of start-up problems were not going to happen because of the lessons
learned from operating a prototype facility on Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. The judge
ruled against the injunction on the basis of the Army's "expert" testimony.
In the region near the sites, 70% of the population live in either Tooele, a city of 13,887
people, or Grantsville, a town of 4,500. Grantsville's percentage of Native-American
population is 151% higher than the national average of 0.81%. The small towns of
Stockton, Rush Valley and Ophir are closest to the incinerator--within a 3-15-mile radius.
Stockton's percentage of Native Americans is 170% higher than the national average. The
Skull Valley Indian Reservation is located approximately 15 miles west of TEAD South and
the reservation is the burial site for sheep that were poisoned by chemical weapons
experiments at Dugway in the 60s. Latino Americans, most of whom live in the cities of
Tooele and Stockton, make up about 11.30% of the population in Tooele County, a figure
higher than the national average (Bureau of the Census, 1990; Bradbury, et al. 1994,
Mormons, who make up a large percentage of the population in Tooele County, face
disproportionate risk because of the food consumption patterns mandated by the doctrines
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Mormon teachings,
"[t]here are blessings in being close to the soil, in raising your own food, even if it is only
a garden in your yard and a fruit tree or two (Benson 1974, p. 269)." The head of
Mormon households are enjoined to "see to it that he has on hand enough food...for at least
a year ahead...Let every man who has a garden spot, garden it; every man who owns a
farm, farm it (Clark 1937, p. 26)." Mormons who put by their own food are at
disproportionate risk to danger from air pollution transmitted into the food chain.
In Tooele County, 11.46% live below the poverty level, lower than the 13.12% national
average (Bureau of the Census, 1990). The main employers in the region since World War
II have been Dugway (1994 employment--1200) and the depot which provided
employment for 45% of the county's labor force prior to realignment which began in 1993.
An estimated 1,900 jobs may be lost once realignment is completed (Bradbury, et al. 1994,
Appendix G). These communities, like Anniston and Pine Bluff, have been economically
dependent upon the military for years and very reluctant to criticize Army plans (Ward,
Past exposure to low levels of nerve agent has occurred and seriously compromises the
public's health. During the 1950s through the 1970s, the equivalent of 2.5 trillion doses--
494,700 pounds--of nerve gas was released into the air at Dugway Proving Grounds in
experiments and tests. During these years, 1,174 open-air test firings of munitions filled
with nerve gas were conducted. On March 14, 1968, nerve agent was sprayed from an F-4
Phantom jet and resulted in the death of 6,000 sheep in Skull Valley. Citizens in the area
were unaware of the extent of exposure they had experienced. But, they are living lives
characterized by poor health (Ward, 1996).
Ray Peck is one of those citizens. On the evening when the nerve agent was sprayed,
Peck, then an employee of Dugway, was working on a tractor 25 miles downwind. The
next morning he ate some of the snow that had fallen during the night because it was so
beautiful. It is believed that Peck and other residents were exposed to small amounts of the
agent VX. Since that time Peck and his family have suffered long-term illnesses including
violent headaches, numbness and paranoia. Peck reports that after the exposure he
experienced "bouts of paranoia" where he became terrified and fearful of making mistakes
in his job at Dugway and in the mechanical and upholstery work he had done for years. He
also has had "nasty" headaches which doctors have not been able to explain. Peck's wife
had three problem pregnancies after the exposure and his daughers have had problems with
miscarriages. Because Peck was worried about being seen as unpatriotic or a disgruntled
worker at Dugway if he said anything about his symptoms and what he believed caused
them, he kept quiet (Davidson, 1993).
The Army has never conceded that nerve agent was responsible for the sheep kill but it paid
$1 million in damages to ranchers. Nor has the Army admitted that residents could have
Exposure to nerve agent is only one danger that has been imposed on Utah by the military.
Utahns have been exposed to radiation from nuclear devices that were exploded in Nevada
only when the winds were blowing toward Utah and not toward Las Vegas, Los Angeles
or other more populous areas. In addition, Dugwa was the site of at least 20 open-air, non-
nuclear explosions to test the spread of radioactive dust. Between 1949 and 1963, the total
radiation released in Utah was 10,000 times more than the Three Mile Island nuclear
accident. More than 328 open-air germ warfare tests were conducted at Dugway with
bacteria for parrot fever, Q fever, the plague, tularemia, brucellosis, botulism and anthrax
(Deseret News 1994, December 23, p. A8).
"The whole story of experiments with exotic and chilling weapons and methods of warfare
leaves Utahns with a sense of betrayal. It is going to take a lot more than reassuring words
to win back their trust."
December 23, 1994
Tooele County is home to other non-military hazardous industries which some residents
believe have affected their health and which threaten to give the region a reputation as a
hazardous waste mecca. During 1988, a 100 square mile part of the West Desert was set
aside as the West Desert Hazardous Industry Area. Three hazardous waste companies have
set up operations since then. A low-level radioactive waste disposal facility is owned by
Envirocare. Two hazardous waste incinerators, one run by Aptus and the other by United
States Pollution Control, Inc., are currently burning (Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix G).
The operations of Magnesium Corporation, known as MagCorp or AMAX and identified
as the number one toxic air polluter in the US, annually spews 25 tons of chlorine and
approximately two tons of hydrochloric acid into the air of Tooele County.
"Stories about working conditions at MagCorp are legion and employees have invented
their own lingo to describe various levels of pollution. 'The air is green today' illustratres a
day of moderate chlorine inundation, but 'the bees are out' means that the air is so saturated
that it stings the skin. They say there is no wildlife, or even insects of any kind around the
facility, and talk of ducks falling out of the sky when they hit the clouds surrounding the
area. Car paint is quickly destroyed by the airborne chemicals, so employees drive
clunkers, surrendering any pretensions of automotive aesthetics. Local beauticians say that
'MagCorp hair' is easily recognizable, far beyond the extremes of green swimming pool
hair. Less cosmetic is the lung damage that many workers claim they have suffered from
working at the magnesium plant."
--Diane Olson Rutter
Catalyst, April, 1996
The EPA reported in 1987 that 88% of Utah's toxic air pollution originated in Tooele
County (Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix G). The area has been disproportionately
affected by the military and polluting industries since World War II, resulting in significant
health problems, destruction of the environment and environmental injustice.
"Our Tribal Government has identified serious problems with the chemical weapons
incineration proposal that the US Army has proposed for the Umatilla Army Depot.
These problems place the people, resources and economy of all northeastern Oregon at
grave risk, including the people, resources and economy of the Confederated Tribes of
the Umatilla Indian Reservation...
"Incinerators are not a fail-safe operation. They can, and do, fail. And their failure can
have catastrophic impacts. A mere speck of the nerve agent VX will kill you if it
touches your skin. Even smaller quantities of the gas GB will kill instantly. Yet the
Army acts as if they pose no practical risk...
"And the Army has failed to consider the threat to the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Their plans use models that assume the earth is flat. They don't consider the
topography of this region or the air patterns that occur near the foothills of the Blue
Mountains, where our Reservation and the City of Pendleton are located...The Umatilla
Reservation is located a mere 30 miles directly downwind from the Army's proposed
incinerators. Under some conditions, nerve gas released at the depot could reach us in
less than an hour...
"In addition, the Umatilla Army Depot is located within our Tribes ceded lands, an area
within which our tribal members retain treaty rights, including the right to fish and to
gather plants and medicines. Resources, such as our Wanaket Wildlife Refuge, located
a few miles east of the town of Umatilla, are directly threatened by the incinerators...the
Army has failed to consult with us on a government-to-government basis about its
incinerator plans...This is unacceptable. The Army cannot pretend to protect us if it
remains ignorant of what our interests are."
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
The Umatilla Depot Activity (UMDA), Oregon is on land that the Confederated Tribes of
the Umatilla Indian Reservation ceded in 1855 to the United States. It occupies parts of
Morrow and Umatilla Counties in the northeast portion of the state in an area that is largely
rural with wheat, cattle and potatoes as the major farm products. Watermelons from
Hermiston, a town of 10,000 about five miles from the Depot, and new products such as
mint, buffalo and llamas are important to the economy. The Columbia River supplies the
region with water and supports fish and wildlife. Overall in the region, aridity is a factor
and crucial ground water is being depleted (Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix H).
The two counties of Umatilla and Morrow have a population of approximately 68,000.
Umatilla is the most populous with close to 60,000 residents. A significant percentage of
the population of both counties lives below the poverty level--16.5% in Umatilla and 15%
in Morrow. These percentages are above the 12.4% average in the state and the national
average of 13.12%. Latino Americans, most of whom moved to the area since 1980, make
up 9% of Umatilla County's population and 11% of Morrow County's population, which
is significantly higher than the state average of 4%. The percentage of Native Americans is
305% higher than the national average in Umatilla County, 90% hgher in Hermiston and
47% higher in Morrow County (Bureau of the Census, 1990; Bradbury, et al. 1994, Appendix H).
Poverty and people of color that have been historically affected by pollution exist in the region
in greater proportions than in the rest of the state.
In 1940-41, as part of the preparations for war around the country, UMDA was built as a
storage and transshipment installation for conventional munitions. Not until the 1960s did
chemical weapons begin to be stored there. About 600 employees worked at the depot
during the 1970s and 1980s until the Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided
to close UMDA. By 1993, only 200 workers were left. The conventional weapons
mission will end in 1994 and employment will decrease further. The community is
planning re-use and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are asking
that lands be given to the Department of the Interior for the use of the tribe (Bradbury, et
al., 1994, Appendix H).
UMDA is in the process of cleaning up two sites and planning to clean nine others.
Citizens attended public meetings held in February 1994 to be apprised of the plans.
People in this region are familiar with military toxics and hazards since Hanford, a nuclear
site, is only 40 miles to the north. Hanford has been in the news due to its radioactive
releases in the past. Transportation of hazardous waste occurs through the region regularly
and the Confederated Tribes worry about the shipments that travel through their lands.
UMDA stores about 12% of the US stockpile of chemical agent in projectiles, M55 rockets
and bulk containers brought in during the 1960s, adding to the region's hazardous
materials (Bradbury et al. 1994, Appendix H).
In Oregon, as in many other states, the military has been an important employer, making
people reluctant to challenge Army plans. The military and local officials also emphasize
the need for patriotic sacrifice when people question the incinerator and accuse opponents
of disloyalty when they criticize the project.
Since members of the Confederated Tribes fish and gather plants and medicine in the
affected area, requirements of the President's Executive Order, concerning consumption
patterns of fish and wild life, must be implemented. Information must be collected and
analyzed regarding the "consumption patterns of populations who principally rely on fish
and/or wildlife for subsistence. Federal agencies shall communicate to the public the risks
of those consumption patterns (Clinton 1994, Sec. 4-4, 4-401)." And, if the contamination
of these food sources is already too high, no new polluting facilities should be permitted.
"The ancestral home of my people--the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Indians is
northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. The Umatilla Indian Reservation is
located on these lands. There is no other Umatilla Indian Reservation. If it is
destroyed or made unlivable by the federal government's toxic incinerator experiment,
there is no other home for our people...
"The Department of Environmental Quality is prepared to approve the Army's
incinerator plans..even though the Army has never shown that the incinerators are a
safer or better way to destroy these chemicals than other technologies...And they are
ready to approve the incinerators even though the Army has completely failed in its
moral and legal duty to coordinate with our Tribal government concerning the Army's
Member, Board of Trustees
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
Kalama Atoll (or Johnston Atoll, as the Army calls it) is a special case of intense, long-term
hazardous abuse. The entire Pacific has historically been an expendable zone for the US
military and continues to be with the construction and operation of the Johnston Atoll
Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS).
During Warld War II, Kalama Atoll was one of the busiest military airport terminals in the
Pacific theatre. In the late 1950s and early 60s, the islands were used for nuclear tests and
anti-satellite missile tests. The first nuclear bombs to be exploded in the stratosphere by the
US were off Kalama in 1958. In 1962 two Thor missiles burst into flames on the launch
pad scattering plutonium all over the atoll and into the sea. Plutonium clean-up of
contaminated soils is expected to cost $15 million. In addition, there is an undetermined
amount of plutonium in the lagoon (Alailima, 1995).
In 1971, 41 acres of land on the southwest shore of Kalama Atoll were set aside for use by
the Army as a chemical agent and munitions storage area. In that same year the chemical
weapons stockpile from Okinawa, Japan (Operation Red Hat), was moved to Kalama
(Alailima, 1995). The original plans to move the weapons to Umatilla Army Depot in
Oregon were scrapped due to public opposition and political pressure. Congressional
legislation was passed (PL 91-672) which prohibited the transfer of nerve agent, mustard
agent, agent orange and other chemical munitions to the 50 US states.
Early in 1972, 22,000 55-gallon drums of agent orange were moved from Vietnam to
Kalama. These drums were removed from the atoll in 1977 and incinerated at sea aboard
the Duch ship Vulcanus. However, due to spills and leaks an estimated 250,000 lbs of the
agent have contaminated the underlying soils. Surface water is believed to be transporting
these contaminants off site affecting nearshore sediments and lagoon fish. In February
1986, the Fish and Wildlife Service identified Kalama as one of one of 10 national wildlife
refuges in the US needing immediate cleanup (Alailima, Nerve Gas 1996).
Kalama Atoll has been subjected to over 60 years of continuous US military occupation and
administration. It has been used for all kinds of military activities, including biological
warfare studies, nuclear teasting, missile testing, anti-satellite weapon deployment and
chemical weapons. With the past still very much present in the minds of many Pacific
Islanders, it was not surprising that the military's announcement to build an incinerator at
Kalama in the early 1980s triggered widespread opposition. Despite this opposition from
Pacific Islanders, the Army was awarded a ten-year permit to construct and run the system
in 1985. Construction of the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS)
began in 1987. Pacific outrage came to a head in 1989 with the US announcement that
100,000 munitions would be transported from Germany to Kalama. Pacific nations felt
betrayed by the move because, according to the Army's 1983 Final Environmental Impact
Statement (FEIS) there was to be no additional transportation of chemical weapons to
JACADS (Alailima, Nerve Gas 1996)
As a prototype for incinerators to be built in the continental US, JACADS has been a poor
model. It has functioned less than 50% of its scheduled operating time since operation of
the facility began. Plant shut downs for long periods of time have been a result of
countless problems, including three live nerve agent releases, explosions and fires in the
furnace kilns, equipment failures and parts melt down. In March 1995, the EPA fined
JACADS $122,300 for three violations of its federal hazardous waste permit including the
release of nerve agent which exceeded allowable limits (Common Sense, 1995). The
concerns of Pacific Islanders seem confirmed.
There is a widespread belief among Pacific Islanders that the US continues to cling to an
outmoded view of the Pacific Ocean as a vast, empty region where hazardous materials can
be disposed of without serious consequences to people and environment. It is a view
entirely at odds with the growing social, political and economic realities of today's world as
well as with the current understanding of how the ocean environment serves to unite rather
than separate us. These emerging perceptions confirm the indigenous perspective of the
Pacific Ocean as a life-giving force. Physical events in any one place in the Pacific,
however remote, potentially affect lands and peoples thousands of miles away. What
happens on Kalama Atoll has the potential to affect Hawai'i, 717 miles away and has a
greater potential to affect the 50,000 residents of the Marshall Islands which are downwind
from the incinerator. The ocean waters are in constant motion and are subject to winds and
currents circulating throughout the Pacific. The near surface microlayers of the marine
waters are rich with biogenic materials that serve as a food source for many commercially
important fish and shellfish. Contamination of the Pacific waters threatens the well-being of
the indigenous peoples who live closest to it and depend upon on it for food and economic
sustenance (Otaguro, 1991). Emissions of dioxins, heavy metals and other contaminants
from the nerve gas incinerators concentrate in the sea surface microlayer and have a
detrimental effect upon the populations of dependent species, particularly on the highly
migratory marine life. It is a catastrophe which will take place slowly over time and is
likely to be ignored until too late (Alailima, 1995).
Johnston Atoll, the Pacific Islands and the US state of Hawai'i constitute a part of the
world populated by indigenous peoples who have been colonized, experimented with and
dumped on since the 19th century. European nations began this process and the US and
other nations, most notably France with its most recent nuclear testing, continue destroying
the environment and people of the Pacific. Clearly, environmental injustice has been an
historic phenomenon in this part of the world and continues to be. Despite protests from
the Pacific Forum (representing fifteen Pacific Island nations, including Australia and New
Zealand), the Pacific Asia Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Pacific Council of Churches,
the Pacific Island Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and many other groups
and organizations, the Army continues its flawed operations at JACADS. It is incumbent
upon the US to apply all its environmental laws to Johnston Atoll, which is often exempted
because it is not a state. President Clinton's Executive Order directing federal agencies to
take on environmental justice issues must be applied to Kalama.
"Pacific Islanders need to bridge not only the economic and racial divide in environmental
injustice, but to extend across a cultural-cosmological and political divide as well. We are
an ocean people. We see her differently. The ocrean is the great connector rather than
divider of us. She is the amniotic fluid from which all life is birthed, not the cesspool for
humanity. She is as sacred as land, sky, air and all living creatures.
"Environmental safety standards and participation practices are applied only within US
territorial limits. Thus, Pacific Islanders beyond US jurisdictional boundaries, although
affected by polluting activities, are not consulted prior to potentially devastating conduct.
We suffer environmental injustice at an international level without any adequate forum of
Pacific Asia Council of Indigeanous Peoples
The Choice of Incineration and the EPA
Early in her tenure as Administrator of the EPA, Carol Browner designated the pursuit of
environmental justice as one of the Agency's top priorities (EPA, Office of Solid Waste and
Emergency Responce [OSWER], 1994). According to the EPA, "Environmental justice is
the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color,
national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and
enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no
groups of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups. should bear a
disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from
industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local,
and tribal programs and policies (EPA, Guidance, 1996)."
In accordance with the EPA's priority for ensuring environmental justice, two specific
goals were developed by the agency-wide Environmental Justice Task Force.
1) Achieve environmental protection for all, so that no segment of the population,
regardless of race, national origin or income, bears disproportionately high and
adverse effects of environmental pollution and that all peoples benefit from
clean and sustainable communities.
2) Educate and empower affected communities, community and other nonprofit
organizations, federal agencies, tribal, state and local governments, academic
institutions, business and industry to ensure early participation in environmental
issues, form partnerships to achieve environmental justice and to help promote
sustainable communities (EPA/OSWER, 1994).
Given the toxic history of the five incinerator sites discussed above and the lack of input
from the affected communities in the decision to incinerate, the Army's choice of
incineration violates the EPA's tenets of environmental justice, especially in light of the
new "combustion strategy" for incineration of hazardous waste initiated by Browner which
requires comprehensive multi-pathway risk assessments prior to permitting hazardous
waste incinerators or renewing permits. These multi-pathway assessments are to address
dioxin-like and other toxic emissions (EPA, Combustion Strategy, 1994). The Army
constructed JACADS and burned chemical weapons there for six years before a first draft
of a risk assessment was completed. The incinerator facility at Tooele, Utah was
constructed and trial burns carried out in the absence of a risk assessment. The final draft
of the assessment for Tooele was completed in 1996 and although the Army claims that the
assessment meets EPA requirements, subsistence farmers and nursing infants were omitted
from the assessment. Multi-pathway assessments have not been completed for the
Arkansas and Colorado sites.
Within the EPA's framework for environmental justice, no groups of people should be
disproportionately affected by toxic conditions. Two additional sites that are slated for
incineration by the Army, although they do not have a high percentage of people of color or
low-income populations, have a long history of being ravaged by polluting industries and
are examples of environmental injustice within this framework. They are:
7) Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland; and
8) Newport Army Ammunition Plant in Indiana;
Aberdeen Proving Ground and Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, located 21 miles northeast
of Baltimore, lies in one of the most populous regions of the country in the megalopolis
corridor that stretches from Washington, DC to New York City. Edgewood is located on
Gunpowder Neck, a peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay between the Bush and Gunpowder
Rivers. Of all eight continental sites, Aberdeen is the most heavily populated, with a
population of more than 44,000. About one-third of the population resides in Kent County
directly across the bay from the Edgewood and Aberdeen areas. The rest of the population
lives in Baltimore County, Harford County or Cecil County. Pockets of poverty exist in
the areas closest to the site (Bureau of the Census, 1990). Significantly, the entire region
has experienced years of military and industrial pollution that affect the lives and health of
the people (Chase, 1993).
During World War I, the site first known as the Gunpowder Reservation, produced and
filled gas shells. It became Edgewood Arsenal in May, 1918 and fell under the control of
the Ordenance Department until July when it became part of the new Chemical Warfare
Service. Large quantities of chemical agent were produced at Edgewood during World
War I. Afterwards, the agent plants ceased operations and switched to gas mask
manufacturing. The site was the location of the Chemical Warfare School and research and
development activities occurred there until World War II when it was re-designated the
Army Chemical Center. Currently, Edgewood conducts research and development, testing
and evaluation, procurement, production and mobilization planning of chemical materiel.
Recent research successes on neutralization technologies occurred there.
Due to the many years of production and testing of chemical weapons, this site is
contaminated with the various agents and is plagued with buried non-stockpile chemical
weapons. For instance, 40 non-stockpile munitions, including sarin, mustard and
phosgene were unearthed in 1994 and four of them were detonated in the open at J-Field
just a few miles from the local population and boaters on the Chesapeake Bay (Richick,
If the incinerator is built at Aberdeen, it will be one more hazard among many already at the
site. For example, the Nike Site, which was used for testing munitions, underwent a
magnetometry sweep and over 10,000 hits of metal were detected in the 100 acres. Some
of the hits are probably metal pieces contaminated with chemical agent, but others are
unstable warheads. This site is 1500 feet from hundreds of homes, including low-income
neighborhoods and less than a mile from three schools. Additionally, two ground water
production wells and the Perryman wellfield, sources of public drinking water, are
contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), a solvent and probable human carcinogen. The
Army is currently cleaning the water at a treatment facility. As of 1994, Aberdeen Proving
Ground was the largest Superfund site at any DOD facility in the US. According to Aberdeen
Proving Ground Superfund Citizens Coalition information, open air detonation and open burning
of chemical, high explosive and incendiary munitions still continues (Coalition, 1995).
The Army's attempts to involve citizens in clean-up or the incineration program have been
minimal. Under pressure, the Army in March 1995 announced hearings to inform 20,000
families in Harford and Baltimore counties about disposal of the buried chemical weapons.
Because Aberdeen has nerve agent stored in ton containers and not in munitions, it has
been chosen by the Army for research for alternative disposal technologies (Richick, Letter,
1995). In 1994 citizens opposed to incineration agreed to accept a prototype alternative
facility, which reveals that opponents to incineration are willing to cooperate with Army if
the weapons can be disposed of safely . Because the people are already living in an area
disproportionately polluted by the military and private industry, their demands for
neutralization technology are reasonable and environmentally just.
The state of Maryland, according to the US Census Cancer Mortality by State, has a higher
rate of cancer than most of the country with a reported 193 deaths per 100,000. Only
Delaware with 195 and the District of Columbia with 230 surpass Maryland (1994). All of
them, however, are in the same small geographic region and near the Chesapeake Bay
which is heavily polluted from the military and industry. Low-income people rely on food
from the bay to supplement their diets. Thousands eat fish, crabs and snapping turtles
regularly and thus ingest toxins such as dioxin (Maryland CAC, 1994). An incinerator will
emit dioxin and compound the problem. Historically, the residents of the region have been
subjected to vast amounts of pollution and the results of this contamination are showing up
in the statistics. It is environmentally discriminatory to expose these people to additional
contaminants. Multiple and cumulative impacts of these toxics already adversely affect the
health of humans and the environment.
The Newport Army Ammunition Plant (NAAP) is located just south of Newport, Indiana
in Vermillion County, population 16,773, a decrease of almost 1,500 from the 1980 census
figures. The percentage of the population living below the poverty level has risen from
10.68% in 1980 to 11.67% in 1990, which is higher than the state average of 10.68%, but
lower than the national average. The county is racially homogenous with a 99.45% white
population. NAAP was established in 1942 to produce the explosive material RDX and
heavy water. In 1959 the Army decided to make nerve agent VX there, and in 1961
production began. Pollution from these processes is currently a problem and dangerous to
human health (Bureau of the Census, 1980, 1990; Bradbury, et al., 1994, Appendix D).
This region is rural and has other major polluters. An Eli Lily medical waste incinerator is
located just north of Clinton, Indiana. Two Public Service Indiana electric generating
plants, which primarily burn coal, are located approximately six miles and twenty miles
away. Within a 40-mile radius of Newport are Crawfordville, Indiana, home to a steel
plant and Terre Haute, a center for the plastics industry known for pollution by dioxins and
other toxins. Citizens living in the vicinity of the Newport facility are already contending
with enough pollution and should not be recipients of incineration technology when viable
Incineration and Environmental Justice at the Bluegrass Army Depot
The 15,000 acres of the Lexington Bluegrass Army Depot (LBAD) lie between the
beautiful rolling hills of the Bluegrass and the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky,
just south of Richmond, Madison County. Similar to other installations, LBAD was
established during World War II as a storage facility and began receiving chemical weapons
in 1942. Its last nerve gas shipments arrived in 1962. The Army provided jobs which
were badly needed in a region of Appalachia that chronically suffers from unemployment
and underemployment (Davies, 1995)
The population of Madison County is approximately 57, 500, a large percentage of whom
live within a 6.2-mile radius of the depot. The poverty rate is 21.21%, significantly higher
than the national average and reflective of the historic poverty of Appalachia. Of
Richmond's 21,155 residents, 31.65% live below the poverty level and in nearby Berea,
17.36% of its 9,126 residents live below the poverty level. Overall, the state of Kentucky
has a 19.03% poverty rate (Bureau of the Census, 1990). Since the late 19th century, the
residents of eastern Kentucky and Appalachia have been subjected to economic and
environmental exploitation due to timber, coal mining and other industries. It has been,
paradoxically, a land of rich natural resources with a poor, oppressed people.
The region is largely white. Madison County has about a 5% African-American population
and Richmond a 10% population of African Americans (Bureau of the Census, 1990).
However, it was an African-American community that suffered most in August 1979 when
a smoke pot accident at the depot released a toxic cloud and caused 45 people to be
hospitalized. The problem was compounded when the Army denied its culpability until
later when it admitted the cloud originated from LBAD.
Although the affected communties of this ninth site are relatively free of toxic industries,
there is a very high percentage of low-income residents--more than twice the national
average in some communities--and it would be environmentally unjust to impose on the
residents the environmental risks that come with incineration when there are safer
technologies, which the Army has refused to consider. Local citizens in these communities
have been very vocal and highly organized in their opposition to the Army's decision to
incinerate but their protests have been ignored.
1) In accordance with President Clinton's Executive Order, given the demograhics and the
toxic histories of the affected communities of Anniston, Pine Bluff, Umatilla, Pueblo,
Tooele and Kalama Atoll, the Army's stockpiled chemical weapons should not be
incinerated at these sites. If the Army is to take seriously the President's call for
environmental justice with strategies for greater public participation, the Army must:
These are the Army's obligations. There is no room and no time for debate on the issue.
The President's Order is clear.
"The discussion of environmental justice is not a philosophical debate, although we do
need to question the philosophical ethos that allows a society to participate in its own
destruction...[F]or us, the issue of environmental justice is an issue of life and death. In
the South Side of Chicago, our children are dying. Some die in their mothers' wombs. In
Louisiana's petrochemical corridor, "Cancer Alley", it is our children who are dying in
record numbers. In New York City, it is our children who are poisoned by lead-based
paint in old housing. In the Southwest and among farm workers, it isour children who
suffer from pesticide poisoning. On Native American reservations, territories, and lands, it
is our children who are victims of 'radiation colonialism.' And for Asian American and
Latino American sisters and brothers who labor in Silicon Valley, it is our children who are
--Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(Bullard 1994, preface, p. xii)
2) In accordance with the EPA's mission to ensure that no groups of people should bear a
disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences, and given the fact that
safer technologies do exist, the Army's chemical weapons should not be incinerated at
any site. If the EPA, under Browner's direction, is serious about making
environmental justice a top priority and fulfilling the President's order, the EPA must:
As documented by environmental justice research, Federal environmental laws and policies
have not provided equal protection to all groups of people. If the EPA is to be a true
protective agency that ensures environmental safety for all people it must take the lead in
preventing the impositon of unnecessary environmental risks by industry and especially
by Federal agencies. It must move away from our nation's current environmental
protection paradigm that, according to Bullard:
1) institutionalizes unequal enforcement;
2) trades human health for profit;
3) places the burden of proof on the "victims" not on the polluting industry;
4) legitimates human exposure to harmful chemicals, pesticides, and hazardous
5) promotes "risky" technologies, such as incinerators;
6) exploits the vulnerability of economically and politically disenfranchised
7) subsidizes ecological destruction;
8) creates an industry around risk assessment;
9) delays cleanup actions; and
10) fails to develop pollution prevention as the overarching and dominant strategy
(1994, introduction, p. xvi).
Refusing to allow incineration of the Army's stockpiled chemical weapons, and mandating
greater involvement of affected communities in the selection of safer alternative methods,
would be steps that the EPA could take toward becoming a leader in pollution prevention
and a true protective agency for all.
In order to achieve environmental justice at these sites, the following recommendations
must be carried out.
1) The current baseline incineration plans must be halted. Reconfiguration followed
by neutralization and storage can be implemented until final disposal technologies
are chosen that fit each site's needs, safety, health and environmental standards.
Alternatively, the Army can expedite implementation of alternative methods
acceptable to the affected communities.
2) Alternative technologies that are non-combustion, closed-loop systems suitable for
the specific sites should be chosen. These technologies must have no or low levels
of toxic emissions, be safe for the workers, the community and the environment.
3) Human health studies (cancer and non-cancer) should be conducted to determine the
effects of low-level emissions of nerve agents, dioxins, PCBs and other toxins
from any facility that is to be built and must be performed by an independent
agency. No communities should be subjected to unnecessary pollution from the
technology used to destroy the chemical stockpiles at any site. The EPA Dioxin
Reassessment found that national exposure to dioxin from existing sources, mainly
incinerators, is already 1 to 2 orders of magnitude greater than any safe dose or
reference dose (RfD) the EPA might calculate for dioxin.
4) As directed in Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice, all people at all
sites should have "the opportunity to comment on the development and design of
research strategies" that the order requires and to be involved in all phases of the
process of choosing an alternative technology, construction of the facility and
monitoring it as the weapons are destroyed. All relevant public information,
documents, notices of hearings and other communications must be translated into
the language spoken by the population affected. This information must be, as
directed by Executive Order 12898, "concise, understandable and readily accessible
to the public."
5) Subsistence consumption of wildlife and fish should be taken into account.
Research on consumption patterns should be completed before any disposal facility
is built. If pollution and levels of toxins such as dioxins are currently too high, no
further increases of toxins can be tolerated by the people, and should not be allowed
by the EPA.
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CWWG Home Page
Chemical Weapons Working Group
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
P.O. Box 467
Berea, KY 40403
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