FAMILIES AGAINST INCINERATOR RISK
68 S. Main Street, Suite 400
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
For more information:
Jason Groenewold (801) 364-5110
Craig Williams (859) 986-7565
For immediate release: September 7, 2000
ARMY DUMPS OLD MUNITIONS NEXT TO I-80 AND 7200 WEST;
ACTIVISTS DISMAYED BY ATTEMPTS TO HIDE WASTE
While Trina Allen was driving into Salt Lake City over Labor Day Weekend, she noticed something unusual--a massive pile of munitions once filled with nerve agent hidden behind a row of train cars just off of Interstate 80 and 7200 West.
Allen, a former hazardous waste manager at the Army's Tooele chemical weapons incinerator, dropped off her kids, went home, grabbed her camera and then drove back to document what she had seen.
"I was appalled and disgusted," said Allen who became a whistleblower in 1996-97, when she documented, among other things, the illegal burning of chemical warfare agent at the incinerator. "Thousands of munitions were dumped just 100 yards from the interstate with nothing to prevent their contents from blowing into the surrounding communities or the Great Salt Lake."
Allen took soil samples from the area as well as samples from inside the munitions. According to the Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste (DSHW), the state agency that regulates the incinerator, if there is any residue left inside of the munitions, it must be treated as hazardous waste. When Allen tipped over some of the projectiles, debris fell out.
"What a mess" said Jason Groenewold, Director of the Salt Lake City based Families Against Incinerator Risk (FAIR) who was also on-site collecting samples. "If, as it appears, this material is hazardous waste, the Army has a lot of explaining to do. It would really call into question their repeated assurances that public safety is their number one priority."
Activists have been concerned about the contamination of metal leaving the incinerator since Gary Harris, the former Chief Permit Coordinator, blew the whistle in January of this year. After Harris charged that metal leaving the incinerator was still contaminated with nerve agent residues and other toxins, the Du-Wald Steel Co. in Denver, CO said they would no longer accept the waste as scrap metal until it was certified free of contamination.
Then on March 10, 2000, the Utah DSHW issued a letter to the Army that said, "Based on findings documented during recent inspections, it appears that ton containers, projectiles, and mortars designated by [the incinerator] as scrap metal do not meet the criteria outlined in the Permit. Please be advised that, effective immediately, all ton containers, projectiles and mortars which remain contaminated with F999 (debris on or in scrap metal) after treatment must be managed as hazardous waste until further notice from the Division."
Provisions were later made to drop the hazardous waste code if the Army vacuumed each munition inside and out so that there was no material left inside the munition. Groenewold and Allen noted that debris fell out of the munitions while they were collecting samples.
"The Army has cut so many corners with this program that it now looks like a circle," said Allen. "It's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt."
FAIR has asked the US Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the matter and take samples of the waste. They are also asking that immediate steps be taken to isolate the area, and are warning people to stay away from the site so as to avoid any possible exposure until it is determined what materials are in the weapons.
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