2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: kefcrowe@acs.eku.edu
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 09:52:25 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Oregon Senators call for GAO review of chemical weapons emergency
Sierra Club - - Oregon Chapter
3701 S. E. Milwaukie Ave. Suite F
Portland, OR. 97202

for more information contact:
Bob Palzer, Sierra Club Oregon Chapter
(541) 482-2492
Mari Margil, Sierra Club Oregon Chapter
(503) 238-0442
Craig Williams, Chemical Weapons Working Group
(859) 986-7565

for immediate release: Wednesday, July 26, 2000



In the aftermath of the May 8-9 chemical agent releases at the Army's
Tooele, Utahn incinerator, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith have
joined with other members of Congress in requesting the General Accounting
Office (GAO) to review the emergency preparedness of communities where
chemical weapons are stored. Chemical weapons stored in Umatilla, Oregon
are slated for disposal by incineration in a facility modeled after the
Utah incinerator.

Joining Congressional members from Utah and Alabama, Senators Wyden and
Smith co-signed a letter to the GAO which states,

"A recent release of GB (sarin) gas at the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal
Facility in Utah has raised issues in some communities near chemical
weapons storage sites about how effectively the [Chemical Stockpile
Emergency Preparedness Program] is managed and whether these communities
are sufficiently prepared to respond to a chemical stockpile accident at
the site."

This GAO review request is the latest in a series of inquiries made by
local officials, state environmental regulators, and federal elected
officials on events surrounding the May chemical agent release in Utah. The
Calhoun County Alabama Commissioners were the first officials outside the
state of Utah to raise concerns about the agent release. In a strong letter
to Alabama's Senator Jim Sessions and Representative Bob Riley, the
Commissioners expressed their lack of trust in the Army's ability to
adequately investigate the incident, as well as the current emergency
preparedness plan for communities living nearby chemical weapons stockpile
sites. For example, the letter pointed out that after eight years of
leading citizens to believe that they should evacuate their homes following
a chemical agent incident, the Army now recommends that citizens disregard
the evacuation approach and instead stay in their homes and close their
windows and doors.

The Commissioners also criticized the Army for not using the latest data on
nerve agent toxicity in its protective action recommendations to local
emergency officials. The Commissioners said that some of the stockpiled
agents have been found to be twice as toxic as the Army estimated.

Now that Senators Wyden and Smith have joined the call for a GAO
investigation, Oregon's emergency preparedness program will be closely
examined as well.

"Last year, I requested a GAO study outlining what steps needed to be taken
to ensure an effective emergency preparedness program for the Umatilla
Depot is in place," Wyden said. "Clearly, the Utah incident indicates that
there is a need for improvement.  We cannot afford to rest in our efforts
to bolster emergency preparedness to protect the health and safety of

Dr. Bob Palzer of the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club said, "A sound
emergency preparedness program is vital to ensure public protection from
these chemicals. But the best way to lower the risks of public exposure to
chemical agents is to use safer weapons disposal technologies."

Craig Williams, Director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, agreed
saying, "The way these chemical weapons incinerators are designed, chemical
agent will continue to be released into the environment. As long as there's
a smokestack, chemical agents will have a direct route into the environment."

Citizens groups have been calling for non-incineration technologies for
chemical weapons disposal in Oregon and other chemical weapons sites.
Technologies demonstrated through the federal Assembled Chemical Weapons
Assessment (ACWA) program could replace incineration for disposal of
Oregon's chemical weapons. These technologies have the capability to
contain by-products rather than releasing them into the environment through
a smokestack.

Non-incineration technology pilot plants for chemical agent destruction are
under construction in Maryland and Indiana. Incinerators are not permitted
for Colorado or Kentucky, where ACWA technologies may be deployed for
weapons disposal.

Copies of the letter to the GAO are available upon request.
Elizabeth Crowe
Chemical Weapons Working Group
Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition
(859) 986-0868


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