Serving Alabama's Future Environment
Families Concerned about Nerve Gas Incineration
Coosa Group of the Sierra Club
for more information:
Rufus Kinney: (256) 435-4743
Brenda Lindell: (256) 236-1496
Suzanne Marshall: (256) 782-0424
for immediate release: Monday, June 19, 2000
CITIZENS CALL ON ENVIRONMENTAL COMMISSION
TO REVOKE NERVE GAS INCINERATOR PERMIT
ADEM's approval of incineration project endangers 100,000 citizens
Citizens of Calhoun and surrounding counties appealed the Alabama Department of Environmental Management's (ADEM) permit for the nerve gas incinerator at the Anniston Army Depot in 1997. On Tuesday, June 20, with construction of the incinerator 80% complete, the Alabama Environmental Management Commission will rule on the appeal. The meeting will commence at 1:30 PM Central Standard Time at the ADEM office, 1400 Coliseum Boulevard, Montgomery, Alabama.
Activists with the local citizens groups Families Concerned About Nerve Gas Incineration, Serving Alabama's Future Environment (SAFE), Burn Busters and the Coosa Group of the Sierra Club will convoy to Montgomery to hold a rally at 1:00, attend the hearing, and hold a press conference following the Commission's ruling. The groups are calling on ADEM to revoke the chemical weapons incineration on the basis that the technology fails to protect the health and safety of workers and the public. The Army's chemical weapons incinerators release thousands of toxic chemicals and live chemical agents out of the smokestacks. The Army's Tooele, Utah incinerator is currently shutdown due to releases of nerve agent out of the smokestack on May 8-9.
The groups are actively advocating destruction of Anniston's lethal chemical weapons stockpile by safer, non-incineration technologies. The federal Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA) program has already successfully demonstrated two such technologies, and demonstrations of three additional non-incineration systems will begin this summer. These systems can capture effluents and hazardous by-products. These technologies could be used in Anniston, since they have been designed to "retrofit" an existing incinerator if necessary.
Spokespersons for the Alabama groups have noted the imminent dangers to more than 100,000 people that stem from the original permit, and allege that ADEM has not fulfilled its responsibility to protect Alabama's citizens from these dangers from the inherent flaws in the incineration process. Many citizens are concerned with the current emergency response program associated with the chemical weapons incinerator. "ADEM's permit in effect leaves no opportunity for an emergency response. ADEM's own rules require the Army to have a contingency plan which is designed to minimize hazards to human health in case of fire, explosion, or other sudden release of nerve agents," said Brenda Lindell of Anniston's Families Concerned About Nerve Gas Incineration. "ADEM should have and could have required the Army to implement or fund the contingency plan in all particulars, but they did not!"
The groups note the following serious shortcomings in the emergency preparedness program.
"I'm sure it'll be just fine with ADEM if in the case of an emergency release of nerve agent, we simply close our windows, turn off our central air, and hold our breath, for that is exactly what the Army told us to do just last week. It would be a shock if ADEM even addressed these emergency response issues," said Suzanne Marshall of SAFE.
ADEM also refused to consider the non-cancer health risks of dioxin exposure in the permit, even though dioxins have been linked to reproductive disorders, birth defects, and immune and respiratory disorders. ADEM has underestimated risk to human exposure to dioxin through the food chain and has repeatedly refused to consider new data on risks. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new dioxin assessment, leaked to the press in May 2000, found the risks from exposure to dioxins to be ten times greater than was previously thought.
During the ADEM permit hearing, Richard Harrell of Westinghouse certified under oath that he had reviewed the incinerator application permit, then later admitted that he had not. "For ADEM to permit the chemical weapons incinerator in light of this information, shows their outrageous disregard for the safety and health of the citizens of Calhoun and surrounding counties. It is unconscionable," said Rufus Kinney of the Coosa group of the Sierra Club. "No wonder Alabama has one of the worst environmental records of the 50 United States."
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