prepared by the Kentucky Environmental Foundation
At a time when military environmental clean up programs are being
threatened with severe budget cuts, the Army has requested a permit to
operate its Pacific Island chemical weapons incinerator for at least
another four years, at a cost of $640 million. On January 3, 1995, this
permit modification request was submitted to the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA).
The Army first began construction of its chemical weapons incinerator in
1987 on Kalama Island, which lies approximately 800 miles southwest of
Hawaii. The waters surrounding Kalama Island provide an abundance of
plankton, which serve as a major food resource for tuna fish and ocean
birds. Downwind from Kalama Island are the Marshall Islands and
Kiribati. Any environmental impacts to Kalama directly impact these
populations. Despite strong protests from Pacific Island nations, the
Pacific has been used as a "dumping ground" for international military
and industrial waste, and the region has suffered tremendous
The Army received a five-year permit to begin testing of the Johnston
Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS) in 1990. JACADS was
promoted as the Army's "state of the art" model incineration facility; all
continental U.S. incinerators would be modeled after this facility. For
the past three years, Army officials testified before Congress that
JACADS operations were on schedule and being performed well.
However, real operations at JACADS showed otherwise. JACADS has
been able to function only about 50% of the time since it opened, and
has experienced chronic operational problems such as:
The Army has admitted through their permit modification request that
they simply cannot do their job fast enough, or safely enough by using
the incineration technology.
Citizens in Hawaii attended a heated public hearing on January 19, to
comment on the Army's permit request. Over 40 citizens, including
members of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Chemical
Weapons Working Group, strongly opposed the permit request. Their
demands were 1) denial of the permit request; 2) an immediate, independent
investigation into the Army's operations and budget; and 3) a moratorium
on incineration so that safe alternative tehcnologies are used for the remainder of the Pacific stockpile.
The documented failures at JACADS are a forewarning of what could
take place at continental U.S. chemical weapons incinerators; in fact,
the incinerator at Tooele, Utah has already experienced similar problems.
There is no logical justification allow the Army to burn another four
years and an additional $640 million with a doomed disposal technology.
There are safer, proven technologies which could effectively destroy the
chemical weapons stockpile in the Pacific and the continental U.S. in a
much more time and cost-effective manner.
Key Events in the history of chemical weapons at Kalama Island
1858 Kalama Island added to the Hawaiian Nation.
1959 Hawaii became the 50th State of the Union. Kalama
became U.S. territory known as "Johnston Atoll."
1950-60s Island used by U.S. for nuclear and anti-satellite missle tests,
resulting in plutonium contamination. Also used to store Agent Orange.
Pacific nations strongly objected.
1971 Chemical weapons stockpile in Okinawa, Japan transferred to Johnston Atoll.
1981 U.S. Army conducted "Environmental Impact Statement"
and determined that the construction of a chemical weapons
incinerator was 'environmentally acceptable' at Kalama.
1983 Public hearings in Hawaii for the proposed chemical weapons
incineration program revealed the island's contamination of
plutonium and dioxin from Agent Orange. Pacific nations
1987 Construction of the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal
System (JACADS) begins. Army said JACADS was "state of
the art" incinerator; a model for chemical weapons
incinerators in the continental U.S.
1991 Chemical weapons stockpile from Germany transported
to Kalama, under protest from Pacific nations, to be
destroyed by the JACADS incinerator in 4 years for $660
1991-94 JACADS experiences serious operational problems;
Army schedule slips due to technical problems.
1995 Army requests another four year permit and $640 million
for JACADS. New Army schedule puts JACADS
disassembly at the year 2000. Citizens from the Pacific and
the continental U.S. strongly oppose the permit request,
instead urging the funding of non-incineration disposal
CWWG Home Page
Chemical Weapons Working Group
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
P.O. Box 467
Berea, KY 40403
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