Serving Alabama's Future Environment
700 8th St. N.E. Jacksonville AL 36265
Families Concerned About Nerve Gas Incineration
313 Crestview Rd. Anniston, AL 36201
for more information contact:
Suzanne Marshall 256-782-0424
Brenda Lindell 256-236-1496
for immediate release: Wednesday, May 31, 2000
ALABAMA'S CALHOUN COUNTY COMMISSION ASKS "VEXING
QUESTIONS" ABOUT UTAH CHEMICAL AGENT RELEASES
ARMY'S DISREGARD OF CHEMICAL AGENT TOXICITY STANDARDS,
FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH OPERATING PROCEDURES AND
PERMITS, AND FAILURE TO NOTIFY LOCAL OFFICIALS OF THE
RELEASES ALL CITED AS REASONS TO CONDUCT AN INDEPENDENT
INVESTIGATION OF THE INCIDENT
Commissioners "do not believe that leaving this investigation to the
Army alone will satisfy our concerns..."
Members of Alabama's Calhoun County Commission are seeking help
from their federal legislators and the U.S. General Accounting Office to
obtain answers to "vexing questions" surrounding the recent releases of
chemical agent from the Army's Tooele, Utah chemical weapons
incinerator. Construction of a chemical weapons incinerator in
Anniston, Alabama is nearing completion and the Commissioners have
called for an "independent investigation of the Tooele release incident, as
well as the failure of the Army's incinerator technology and the
breakdown of local notification procedures."
In their May 25 letter to Alabama's Senator Jeff Sessions and
Representative Bob Riley, the Commissioners cast doubt on the Army's
ability to credibly investigate the incident itself. Citing the Army's $800
million investment in the Anniston incinerator, the Commissioner's
said, "[W]e do not believe that leaving this investigation to the Army
alone will satisfy our concerns...the Army simply has too much at stake
here and is far too involved with the current program to be objective in
its evaluation of last week's events at the Tooele incinerator."
The letter also points out that the Army's theory of implementing
Lessons Learned from one facility to the next has not occurred.
"According to the Army, the Tooele facility was to have benefited from the
experiences at Johnston Atoll [the Pacific incinerator]. The Army has stated that
numerous modifications which have been made prior to the construction
of the Tooele incinerator have made the incinerator at Tooele fail-proof.
Last week's release strongly suggests otherwise."
The letter also emphasizes the Army's gross negligence with regard to
emergency preparedness and points to a recent Army report which
concludes that in more than 95% of the computer simulations regarding
potential scenarios surrounding the release of chemical agents from the
incinerator at the Anniston Depot, "there will not be sufficient time for
residents in the greater Anniston-Oxford-Saks-Weaver area to evacuate
before a plume of chemical agent reaches them." The report suggests
that instead of evacuating, citizens should "stay in their homes and
close their windows and doors," but it does not tell them how long to
remain indoors, or when it would be safe to go outdoors. The
Commissioners note that the Army says it "simply does not have the
answers to these questions."
In addition, the Commission raises serious questions about the Army's
entire Risk Assessment stating, "[I]t is generally known that a study
conducted by the National Research Council...found that some of the
agents stored at Bynum [the Anniston Depot] are twice as toxic as
originally estimated." But, says the letter, the Army contractor
"continues to use the lower toxicity levels in formulating its [emergency
Alabama groups watching the Army's chemical weapons disposal program
are praising the Commission for its efforts to hold the Army accountable
for safe chemical weapons disposal. Dr. Suzanne Marshall of the
citizens group Serving Alabama's Future Environment (SAFE) said, "After
a decade of watching chronic problems occur at the Army's Pacific and
Utah incinerators, why should we assume that these problems will
somehow be prevented in Alabama? We are grateful to the Commission
for seeking an answer to that question."
SAFE, Families Concerned About Nerve Gas Incineration and other local
and national organizations advocate the safer, non-incineration
destruction of chemical weapons. A federal advanced technologies
program has identified and demonstrated several such technologies as
viable for disposal of assembled chemical weapons like those stored in
Anniston and other U.S. sites.
Ms. Brenda Lindell, of the Anniston group Families Concerned About
Nerve Gas Incineration, said, "We appreciate that the County
Commission understands the serious nature of these problems, and is
demanding they be investigated. The Commissioners' timing in raising
these questions is especially good in view of the recent revelation that
Anniston has the highest rate of PCB poisoning in America." Lindell
noted that the Environmental Protection Agency may soon permit the
burning of PCBs in chemical weapons incinerators.
-- 30 --
Click here to view Commissioners' letter. A hard copy of the letter is available on request.
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