2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 9 Apr 2003 14:10:36 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Disposal of U.S. chemical stockpile a burning issue
Disposal of U.S. chemical stockpile a burning issue
By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporter

UMATILLA CHEMICAL DEPOT, Ore.  The incinerator rises from the desert
along the Columbia River, a football field-sized complex of conveyors,
knife-wielding robotic arms, furnaces, hundreds of valves and miles of

The complex is designed to safely destroy some of the world's most
lethal chemical weapons, tons of which are stowed here in the Eastern
Oregon desert in sod-covered bunkers.

"We plan to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Mary
Binder, a public-information officer for the Army depot.

But the starting date keeps shifting. The $2.4 billion project is two
years behind schedule. And, it stumbled again last week as one furnace
undergoing a test burn with industrial chemicals violated state
air-pollution standards for five heavy metals.

"This shows they have problems that they still need to work out," said
Sue Oliver of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The Army also faces lawsuits filed by community, environmental and other
groups wary of the risks to workers and residents who live near the
depot. They want the Army to abandon incineration in favor of an
alternate technology that would neutralize rather than burn the

The arsenal here includes more than 200,000 rockets, bombs, mines and
tanks that can be attached to airplanes and sprayed like crop-dusters.
Some are packed with sarin, a nerve agent with a lethal dose of less
than a droplet. Others are spiked with VX, an even more potent nerve
agent. Then there are bulk containers filled with 1940s-era mustard gas,
a chemical put to brutal use during the trench warfare of World War I.

Altogether, the depot contains more than 3,700 tons of chemicals capable
of killing millions of people.

This is the kind of nightmare arms cache that Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein once sought to amass, and the prospect that he still possesses
such weapons helped propel the United States into war. So far, U.S.
troops have reported finding a few suspicious shells and drums but there
is no confirmation of any chemical weapons.

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