DOWNWINDERS DEMAND CONGRESS END CHEMICAL WEAPONS INCINERATION; FUND SAFE ALTERNATIVES TO DESTROY STOCKPILE
Washington--Activists from communities, where the US Army intends to burn the nation's arsenal of nerve and mustard agent, today gathered on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to fund alternative technologies instead of constructing and operating incinerators to destroy the chemical warfare weapons.
"The nation is at a crossroads: either Congress continues to permit the Army to blunder down the deadend path of incineration--with it dangers to public health and the environment as well as its out-of-control budget--or it funds clean, safe alternative technologies to eliminate the stockpile more cost-effectively," explained Craig Williams, national spokesperson for the Chemical Weapon Working Group (CWWG). "We're here to help them make the choice that best protects our communities."
According to Congress' General Accounting Office, the US chemical weapons incineration program is more than 800% over budget and 14 years behind schedule. Incinerating the arsenal, originally budgeted at $1.7 billion, is now projected to cost $15.6 billion. The deadline for completing incineration, initially 1994, has slipped to at least 2007. Several non-incineration technologies have recently passed an initial review by a Pentagon- sponsored committee which includes citizens at the table.
Experimental chemical weapon incinerators in the Pacific and Utah have frequently shut down due to agent leaks and other major malfunctions. "The facility on Kalama Island (Johnston Atoll) in the Pacific has been fined for agent leaks by the US Environmental Protection Agency, suffered a serious explosion, and continues to pollute our ocean," noted Maile Shimabukuro of the Pacific Asian Council of Indigenous People in Hawaii. "A worker there recently was killed on the job."
"Based on my experience, incineration is not a safe solution for chemical weapons disposal anywhere," added Steve Jones, the former Chief Safety Officer at the Tooele, Utah, incinerator, who was fired after he refused to certify the facility was safe. A federal judge recently ordered Jones rehired or paid $1,000,000 for illegal termination. Jones, who has won many awards during his career as a military safety and environmental officer, concluded, "It's time to abandon incineration and move on to safer technologies."
Evelyn Yates of Pine Bluff for Safe Disposal in Arkansas explained her motivation for joining the anti-incineration, pro-alternative technology movement. "I was especially concerned that communities of color were particularly targeted for these dangerous facilities, in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the President's commitment to environmental justice. Fortunately, grassroots activists pressured Congress to fund a process through which stakeholders can help the nation identify and evaluate safer, cleaner technologies."
David Christian of Families for Safe Disposal in Anniston, Alabama, and a member of the Pentagon-sponsored Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment (ACWA), said, "Seven technologies developed by the private sector, including major corporations, passed an initial evaluation. In June of this year, at least two will be ready for demonstration as potential substitutes for incineration. The key is continued Congressional funding to advance these alternative technologies."
The CWWG activists are taking their agenda to members of Congress in a series of meetings on Capitol Hill and in their district offices. The CWWG is an international coalition of activists who live near proposed or already operational chemical weapons disposal facilities in the US, the Pacific and Russia.
For more information:
Craig Williams 606-986-7565
Bob Schaeffer 617-489-0461
For additional information about specific sites, contact:
|Anniston, AL||Suzanne Marshall||205-782-0424|
|Pine Bluff, AR||Evelyn Yates||870-247-9484|
|Pueblo, CO||Ross Vincent||719-561-3117|
|Newport, IN||Glen Summers||317-597-4623|
|Berea, KY||Gina Chamberlain||606-986-5667|
|Aberdeen, MD||John Nunn||410-778-5968|
|Umatilla, OR||Karyn Jones||541-567-6581|
|Tooele, UT||Cindy King||801-486-9848|
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