2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 4 Aug 2003 18:37:13 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Army will restore native plants for seabird habitat in addition to fi
Subject:  EPA Settles Case with the U.S. Army for Release of VX Nerve
Agent at Johnston Island

For Immediate Release:  August 4, 2003
Contact:  Dean Higuchi, (808) 541-2711
Press Office Main Line: (415) 947-8700

Army will restore native plants for seabird habitat in addition to fines

     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has
settled its case with the U.S. Army for the Dec. 2000 release of a nerve
agent at the Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System facility and
will pay a total $273,625 in fines and projects.

     The Army has corrected the conditions that led to the violations
the EPA cited and will spend $182,500 to restore native plants on
portions of the Johnston Atoll wildlife refuge, approximately 800 miles
southwest of Hawai'i. In addition, the Army will pay a fine of $91,125.

     "The Army's planned re-vegetation project goes beyond violations
and paying a penalty," said Amy Zimpfer, acting director for the EPA
Pacific Southwest Region's Waste Management Division. "The project will
help restore fragile bird habitat and mitigate the negative
environmental effects of decades of past military activity on this
remote Pacific island."

      The project will enhance the only habitat for Pacific seabirds in
800,000 square miles of ocean.

     "This project is intended to help restore native vegetation on
Johnston Island and should run concurrently with the demolition of much
of that island's infrastructure," said Lindsey Hayes, refuge manager for
the Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. "The types of vegetation to
be planted provide valuable nesting habitat to numerous species of
seabirds breeding at Johnston Atoll."

     A required monthly sampling of incinerator ash at JACADS found a
bin of ash that contained an unknown quantity of VX nerve agent.
Personnel at the facility were instructed to re-sample the ash, and to
later wrap the bin and move it to the proper hazardous waste storage

     The EPA found that:

        - the workers did not have the proper protective gear;
        - the facility's emergency procedures were not complied with;
        - hazardous waste was stored in a non-permitted area;
        - the Army failed to timely notify the EPA of the release of
nerve agent.

     The settlement resolves the EPA's complaint against the Army, which
neither admits nor denies the allegations.

     Death from inhalation or exposure to VX on the skin can occur
within minutes. A lethal dose can be as small as a droplet the size of
Lincoln's head inside the Lincoln Memorial on the back of a penny.

     The JACADS facility was designed to incinerate military weapons
containing blister agents and the chemical nerve agents GB (sarin) and
VX. Beginning in 1990, the facility has now destroyed four million
pounds of chemical agents and chemical weapons originally stored on
Johnston Island.  The Army is in the process of closing the JACADS
facility and is required to do a complete clean-up of the area.

     Johnston Atoll supports a rich and varied ecosystem for thousands
of nesting seabirds, corals and marine life. It consists of
approximately 50 square miles of shallow coral reef surrounding four
islands, the largest of these being Johnston Island.

                                           #       #       #

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