2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: kefcrowe@acs.eku.edu
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2000 14:42:46 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] U.S. Army ignores "safety first" slogan at Utah incinerator
P.O. Box 467, Berea, Kentucky   40403
Phone:  (859) 986-7565      Fax: (859) 986-2695
e-mail: kefwilli @ acs.eku.edu
web: www.cwwg.org
for more information contact:
Craig Williams: (859) 986-7565
Jason Groenewold: (801) 364-5112
Bob Schaeffer: ( 941) 395-6773

for immediate release, Wednesday, June 28, 2000

	Two new government reports analyzing last month's nerve gas
releases at the Tooele, Utah, chemical weapons incinerator show that the
U.S. Army is ignoring a Congressional mandate to make safety the number
one priority in destroying the nation's agent stockpile, according to
advocates of alternative disposal technologies.
	"The Army arrogantly defied repeated warning from its own engineers
and contractors, independent scientists, and other experts about design
flaws in the feed chute to the Deactivation Furnace (DFS)," explained
Craig Williams, spokesperson for the Chemical Weapons Working Group.
"Rather than fix a major problem, the Army chose to run the incinerator
until it broke down, without regard to the public health and safety
consequences. This clearly violates the legal requirement that provides
for 'maximum protection for the environment, the general public, and the
personnel who are involved in the destruction of the lethal chemical
agents and munitions' as directed by Congress."
    	The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Utah Department of
Environmental Quality concluded that the root cause of the May 8 and 9
releases was jamming of the feed chute, a problem that was identified
nearly a decade ago but never fixed. As far back as 1991 an Army report
on a demonstration incinerator in the Pacific that was the model for
Tooele stated, "[T]he DFS gates were not only a continuing source of
maintenance problems, but were major contributors to reduced production."
In 1994, the National Research Council recommended that before  Tooele
went on line that it needed to "Eliminate furnace feed errors to the DFS
feed system." In 1997, a worker was killed at the Pacific incinerator
while repairing the DFS feed chute system, which the Army reported had,
"key components failing too frequently." More recently, several senior
officials at Tooele, including the former Plant Manager and Chief Permit
Coordinator, warned of potential releases due to DFS feed chute jams
prior to their leaving the facility over safety issues. Yet, according to
an official document dated July 1999 the conclusion was drawn that, "the
chutes would have to be redesigned." but the Army's response was that,
"This is not feasible due to the amount of downtime required."
	"Actions speak louder than words, and the Army has clearly shown
that they are more concerned about cost and schedule than they are public
and worker safety, " said Jason Groenewold, Director of Families Against
Incinerator Risk, a Salt Lake City watchdog group.
    	The reports also conclude that Army and contractor staff violated a
number of basic safety procedures when they failed to notify the public
about the leak until four hours after it took place. Among other errors,
employees at the plant's Emergency Operations Center initially concluded
that the leak did not involve agent, mixed-up monitoring tubes designed
to detect nerve gas, and could not produce key parts of their operating
logs from the period when the releases occurred.
    	"The public is incredibly lucky that only a small amount of agent
was released this time," Williams concluded. "The May incidents prove,
once again, that safety is a very low priority for the Army. It's primary
goal remains continuing incinerator operations, no matter what the cost,
to project an image of success that will maintain
Congressional funding."
	The Army's chemical weapons incineration program is now 14 years
behind schedule and 900% over budget, according to a recent Government
Accounting Office report.

Elizabeth Crowe
Chemical Weapons Working Group
Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition
(859) 986-0868


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