for more information:
Evelyn Yates (870) 536-0836
for immediate release: Tuesday, November 21, 2000
The local group Pine Bluff for Safe Disposal today submitted comments on an Army report which assessed the feasibility of disposal of "non-stockpile chemical materiel" in the chemical weapons incinerator, currently under construction at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. The group says incineration of any type of chemical weapons is unsafe, and the Army should look toward safer alternatives for disposal of its cache of non-stockpile weapons.
Non-stockpile materiel is a category of abandoned chemical warfare items separate from the chemical weapons stockpiled at eight continental U.S. sites. Non-stockpile materiel is known or suspected to exist at more than 200 sites in the U.S. Arkansas is one of only two states in the U.S. which permits the import of non-stockpile materiel for storage and disposal.
The report, titled Assessment of Using Stockpile Facilities to Process Selected Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel: Initial Screening, states there is a low probability that many of the non-stockpile items at Pine Bluff could be processed by the stockpile incinerator. The report also shows that public acceptability of this idea is low. Evelyn Yates, of Pine Bluff for Safe Disposal, agrees.
"We feel that incineration is unacceptable because of the public health risks associated from its toxic emissions. But, even those community members who support the Army's incineration program do not necessarily want to that facility used for destruction of other military wastes," Yates said. "People are also concerned that if we agree to incineration of the non-stockpile weapons that are already here, wastes will continue to be shipped from out of state for disposal. That, too, is unacceptable. Our community's destiny should not be a military dump site."
In fact, the Army's Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Program has developed several non-incineration, transportable systems designed to treat non-stockpile items. Two non-stockpile disposal systems are being tested in Utah, and another called the Explosive Destruction System, is undergoing tests in the United Kingdom. Pine Bluff is being considered for implementation of these technologies, and plans for a temporary non-incineration "fixed facility" for non-stockpile disposal at Pine Bluff are being discussed. Notification of a National Environmental Policy Act assessment of the fixed facility concept is expected soon.
"It is ironic that we were asked to comment on incineration of non-stockpile materiel, at the same time safer disposal technologies are available for Pine Bluff," Yates said. "The community needs information on these other disposal systems now, and we deserve to have a role in the technology decision-making process."
Phase two of the Army/Mitretek report, which will contain more
detailed information, is scheduled for release in December.
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