2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: kefcrowe@acs.eku.edu
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 15:01:11 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] New environmental violations alleged at Utah chemical weaponsincine
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

PO Box 467  Berea, KY 40403
606-986-7565  606-986-2695
kefwilli@acs.eku.edu   www.cwwg.org

                                      for further information:
                                     Craig Williams  (606) 986-7565
                                     Bob Schaeffer   (941) 395-6773
                                     Mick Harrison   (606) 321-1586

for use after 1pm EST, Tues. Jan. 11, 2000 news conference

The former Permit Coordinator at the U.S. Army's Tooele, Utah, chemical
weapons incinerator today revealed his job was threatened unless he agreed
to submit false data and withhold vital environmental information to get
that controversial facility licensed.

Speaking at a National Press Club news conference, Gary E. Harris, said,
"Many questionable practices that were not environmentally protective, safe
or legal occurred at Tooele during my five years of employment there, and
many documents were submitted to Utah regulators by the Army and its
contractors that were dishonest or misleading. As Permit Coordinator I was
directed to submit modifications to the plant that did not comply with
Federal Law. I reported health, safety and environmental issues to the
contractor and the Army which I was directed not to bring to the attention
of the State under the threat of losing my job."

Mr. Harris provided a list of more than 100 improper activities at Tooele,
allegations he has sworn to under oath in a deposition for a Utah legal
proceeding challenging the plant's hazardous waste operating permit. Among
his specific charges:
        * Political influence was applied by the Army to "fix" Utah process
to cover-up dangerous practices and avoid public review and comment. Utah
permit did not reflect facility actually built;
        * The plant's Health Risk Assessment was politically adjusted to
obtain desired results by removal of data about people living and farming
close to the incineration facilities;
        * Incinerator trial burns were falsified to avoid revealing that
Metal Parts Furnace incinerator cannot safely burn the jelled agent found
in many munitions and containers;
        * Data was manipulated to conceal fact that agent was not staying
in Deactivation Furnace long enough to be destroyed;
        * Information was purposefully withheld from the regulators that a
key component of planned agent destruction process, the dunnage incinerator
designed to handle agent contaminated material like protective suits, could
not work;
       * Staff were directed not to incorporate "lessons learned" from
other facilities, such as the fact that the incinerators could not
completely incinerate mustard agent, into the Tooele design and not to
contact any sites under construction to share information on problems;
     * Agent residues were improperly disposed of off-site; and
      * Nearby communities never agreed to provide emergency response for
accidents as required by permit was ignored;

The Tooele chemical weapons incinerator, the only such facility on the U.S.
mainland and the model for similar plants slated for construction in
Arkansas, Oregon, Alabama, Colorado, and Kentucky has been severely
criticized by former plant officials and citizen groups. Tooele's former
Safety Manager, Steve Jones, was terminated for refusing to certify that
the facility was safe but returned to his job after the U.S. Department of
Labor found that he had been illegally fired for having raised safety and
environmental concerns. Subsequently, the plant's General Manager, Gary
Millar, resigned charging that the Tooele incinerator remained unsafe. Then
the plant's hazardous waste manager Trina Allen was forced to resign after
raising concerns about environmental violations at the facility. A
Department of Labor judge ruled in favor of Ms. Allen on her whistleblower
retaliation complaint.

Mick Harrison, the lawyer representing Mr. Harris added, "Gary Harris'
revelations demonstrate that the U.S. Army has knowingly violated the law,
covered up known dangers, and corruptly influenced state agencies to
proceed recklessly with a technology they know does not work. This is
unacceptable behavior in any circumstances, but particularly risky in the
area of chemical weapons destruction."

Craig Williams, national spokesman for the Chemical Weapons Working Group,
a coalition supporting non-incineration technologies, concluded, "The
Army's incineration program is another 'Paducah' in the making. Workers are
being exposed, dangerous agents are being emitted, and government agencies
are conspiring to cover up the mess. The Toelle plant should be shut down
immediately and construction of similar facilities halted."

- - 3 0 - -

A background kit including a chronology of problems in the Army's
incineration program, Mr. Harris' list of significant safety, health and
environmental problems at the Tooele facility, and other information is
available on request.
Elizabeth Crowe
Chemical Weapons Working Group
Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition
(606) 986-0868
fax:  (606) 986-2695

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