2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 16 Sep 2002 17:15:00 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Burning of Chemical Arms Puts Fear in Wind

Burning of Chemical Arms Puts Fear in Wind

ANNISTON, Ala. ? Some nights, when he is in a worrying mood, Samuel
Robinson sits by himself in the glow from his television screen and
counts the windows in his home.

It could get in here, he thinks.

It could get in there.

Any place a breath of air could creep in, he says, so could a tiny
amount of deadly vapor, a smidgen of the poison gas that the nearby
chemical weapons incinerator plans to begin burning in October, after
years of delay, cost overruns and safety concerns.

"And I'll be thinking, what could I do?" said Mr. Robinson, 74, who
lives just a few miles from the Anniston Army Depot, where stockpiles of
deadly nerve gas and mustard gas, some leaking from corroded shells,
rockets and barrels, await destruction in a $1 billion incineration

"One in each bedroom, two in the living room, one in the kitchen," he
said, running over the windows in his house, and the room he would try
to seal with plastic wrap if an alarm sounded. "No, I couldn't. I'd just
get nervous and give up."

The Anniston Army Depot houses 9 percent of the nation's chemical
weapons stockpile, which, under a global treaty that bans such weapons,
is supposed to be destroyed by 2007. But unlike incinerators on Johnston
Island in the Pacific Ocean and at Tooele, Utah, in the Great Salt Lake
Desert, the weapons bunkers here in this green, hilly region of
northeastern Alabama are surrounded by schools, churches, ball fields,
day care centers, nursing homes and trailer parks.

The Army's scientists say that when the burning starts, at 2,700
degrees, 2,254 tons of the most inhuman weapons ever devised will be
rendered little more dangerous than water vapor. Most of the chemicals
are 40 years old or older and have become obsolete because age has
caused the chemicals to deteriorate and because the necessary guns and
launching platforms no longer exist.

It will take seven years to erase the stockpile, says the Army, which
insists that the risk to the incinerator's neighbors is minimal to
nonexistent and that it is far better to burn these weapons than to let
them sit and crumble.

But similar Army efforts elsewhere, while avoiding disaster, have been
marred by mechanical foul-ups and human error, and some health experts,
environmentalists and residents say it is madness to burn weapons of
mass destruction in a county of 116,000 people.

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