for more information:
Sandra Horrocks (303) 470-1352
Susan Maret (303) 698-9227
Elizabeth Crowe (859) 986-0868
for immediate release: Wednesday, November 22, 2000
The recent discoveries of a nerve agent "bomblet" and five other unidentified bombs at Colorado's Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) has gained the attention not only of citizens living nearby the site, but all over the country. As the Army, Colorado state regulators, and EPA all weigh in on the discussion of how to dispose of the bomblets safely and effectively, citizens groups are demanding to be included in the decision-making process.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a 27 square mile Army depot near Denver, Colorado, was for decades an Army chemical weapons production site. While most of the chemical weapons at the Arsenal were destroyed years ago by neutralization or incineration, some abandoned chemical warfare items remain. These are items were buried or dumped in the 1940s through the 1970s, and are now being recovered -- at times unintentionally -- during cleanup activities at the Arsenal. On October 16, a GB Sarin bomblet was found; since then five bombs of unknown content have been unearthed. The grapefruit-size bomblet filled with lethal GB Sarin nerve agent has been determined by the Army to be too unsafe to transport, and must be destroyed in place.
Susan Maret, of the Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition, says release of the chemical agents contained in the bomblet could impact nearby Commerce City and Denver residents. Maret feels it is imperative that citizens have a role in determining which disposal method is used for destruction of these warfare items. "We have several disposal options at the Arsenal, some of which may be more protective of public health than others," she said. "Citizens have a right to review all the disposal technology information available, and a right to help determine which method could work the best. This is what informed consent is all about."
Options currently being considered for the bomblet disposal include the Donovan chamber, designed for contained detonation of explosive warfare items and the Explosive Destruction System (EDS), which has just completed tested in the UK for contained treatment of explosive items containing chemical agents. The EDS is expected to arrive back in the U.S. next week. Maret believes that each method is worth consideration and that many citizens are willing to work with the Arsenal, and state and federal regulators to make the right decision.
Sandra Horrocks, Chair of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Subcommittee, Rocky Mountain Chapter, Sierra Club, says "Over the years, citizens have been excluded from decision making as related to Arsenal remediation. This is a perfect time for the Army to ask citizens how they feel about destruction technologies. Since the Arsenal has been inadequately characterized in terms of its waste, it is now more important than ever to review safe and effective destructive technologies to deal with weapons that will be discovered in the future."
Elizabeth Crowe, coordinator of the Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition, a grassroots network focused on the recovery and disposal of abandoned chemical warfare items, said, "There is a great likelihood that more chemical agent-filled bombs will be found at the Arsenal. Getting citizen involvement in the technology decision-making process now will ensure that the safest, most efficient disposal method is used."
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