about Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons
Compiled by the Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition, a grassroots coalition working for
environmental justice in the retrieval, storage and destruction of non-stockpile chemical weapons.
What is "non-stockpile chemical materiel?"
How dangerous are the chemical agents contained in non-stockpile chemical weapons?
Non-stockpile chemical materiel is a catch-all name for the leftovers from the Army's chemical warfare production and testing. There are five major categories of non-stockpile materiel: buried chemical warfare materiel, recovered chemical weapons, former chemical weapons production facilities, binary chemical weapons, and miscellaneous chemical warfare materiel. In plain language, non-stockpile materiel includes bombs, projectiles and rockets containing chemical agent, chemical agent testing kits, buildings contaminated by chemical agents, and much more.
Non-stockpile chemical weapons contain several types of toxic agents. Nerve agents attack the central nervous system and are lethal in tiny doses. Mustard agents can cause external and internal blistering, and can be lethal. Phosgene, a choking agent, can cause serious health problems but is not a lethal agent.
How does the Army know where non-stockpile materiel is located?
Army historical records and documents provide much of the information about non-stockpile materiel locations. These documents are located at military installation archives, at the National Archives in Washington DC and in other government agency files. Even with the thousands of documents and reports available, a lot of information regarding military chemical weapons activities has been either lost or destroyed. While the Army admits it does not know where all of the non-stockpile materiel is, it is also true that some information -- locations of additional U.S. and international non-stockpile sites -- is "classified," meaning citizens do not have access to it.
The most concise listing of known and potential non-stockpile sites is in the Army's Survey and Analysis Report for the Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Program (NSCMP). The April 1996 version of the Survey and Analysis Report, although outdated and incomplete, is user-friendly and available from the Army.
Who is responsible for finding non-stockpile materiel on a military installation?
The installation commander is primarily responsible for allocating time and money to clean up non-stockpile chemical materiel and/or agent contaminated areas on the base. The commander will likely contract with the Army Corps of Engineers or another military contractor to actually do the work of finding non-stockpile materiel. The Corps headquarters are in Huntsville, Alabama but there are also numerous regional offices. The Corps may work with one or more local or regional offices, and contract with other agencies to help carry out the work.
When do non-stockpile chemical weapons become the responsibility of the NSCMP?
The NSCMP is only responsible for a weapon once it is "turned over" to them. In other words, NSCMP doesn't dig up the non-stockpile weapons, they only get rid of weapons once someone else digs them up.
What about materiel found in public areas?
Typically, the Army Corps of Engineers will remove non-stockpile materiel in public areas, and turn it over to NSCMP for storage or disposal. In 1996 for example, 200 chemical agent identification sets were found behind an old armory building in the Jackson, Mississippi fairgrounds. In that case, the Corps came in to remove the materiel. NSCMP then arranged for the materiel to be transported to Arkansas for storage. When mustard agent weapons were discovered in a civilian neighborhood in Washington, DC in 1993, the Corps came in to remove the weapons which were also shipped to Arkansas for storage pending disposal.
If the materiel is found in a populated area, the Corps will likely coordinate with local
agencies on emergency preparedness procedures.
What happens when non-stockpile materiel is found on or near tribal lands?
In addition to complying with federal and state environmental regulations, NSCMP is required to honor and comply with sovereign tribal laws and treaties. The federal government and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have specific policies regarding activities on Native lands, and government-to-government relations. Numerous other laws and regulations, which serve to protect Native American lands and cultural resources, apply to non-stockpile activities. These include, but are not limited to, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
What non-stockpile disposal methods has the Army used?
For decades, chemical weapons were dumped in the oceans, buried or burned in open pits and trenches or open detonated. Fortunately, increased awareness of the environmental impacts of sea dumping resulted in that practice being banned in 1969. However practice of open burning/open detonation is still used by the Army for weapons destruction. The process involves attaching explosives to a weapon and detonating it, creating a "fireball" which is supposed to destroy any chemical agents present. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the agent is completely destroyed. Because the process is not contained, there is no way to prevent these chemicals from dispersing into the environment.
The Army also relies on the incineration technology for disposal of non-stockpile materiel and residual wastes. Incineration is known to be a major source of toxic chemical contamination, releasing heavy metals, PCBs, lethal dioxins and other compounds of which the health effects are unknown. Studies show that the most up-to-date filter systems and monitoring devices cannot prevent dangerous chemicals from being released out the smokestack into the environment.
What other technologies can be used to safely destroy non-stockpile materiel?
Several contained, non-incineration technologies exist which may be appropriate for non- stockpile materiel disposal. The Army has developed two such technologies specifically for disposal of non-stockpile materiel: the Rapid Response System and the Munitions Management Device. Other non-incineration disposal processes include: supercritical water oxidation, neutralization and biological treatments, gas phase chemical reduction, solvated electron technology, electrochemical oxidation, and more. These systems will be tested in 1999-2000.
Another technology called the Emergency Destruction System is currently being tested for its capability to detonate and decontaminate unstable weapons in a portable, contained process. The EDS may be ready for field work in 2002.
How do I get information from the Army?
To get information from the Army on non-stockpile materiel sites, disposal technologies, public affairs projects and more, call the Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Program at 1-800-488-0648.
To find out what activities are taking place to find and retrieve non-stockpile materiel, call the Army Corps of Engineers in Huntsville, Alabama at (256) 895-1691.
How can I support the Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition?
The grassroots experience has proven that the Army will only retreat from its "Decide, Announce, Defend" decision-making process if they are forced -- by citizens and/or legislators -- to do so. The Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition is actively promoting environmental justice in the Army's non-stockpile program. We want safe remediation, storage and disposal of non-stockpile materiel, and involvement in the decisions that will impact our communities' environment and public health. For more information or to network with others working for environmental justice in the non-stockpile program, please contact:
Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition
PO Box 467
Berea, KY 40403
fax: (606) 986-2695
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