2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 18 Aug 2003 15:19:29 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Alabamians fear chemical disaster
Alabamians fear chemical disaster
By Larry Copeland
Posted 8/18/2003 12:28 AM

ANNISTON, Ala.  Fear and distrust run deep here in "the pink zone."

These are the neighborhoods closest to the Anniston Army Depot, where
the Army began burning obsolete but deadly chemical weapons this month.
Toxins such as sarin and VX nerve gas  the very weapons of mass
destruction that have been so much in the news lately  will be
destroyed at the depot over the next seven years.

If an accident occurred that sent a toxic cloud into the air, the pink
zone would be Ground Zero.

In an eerie preview of what life might be like in a future chemical
attack by terrorists, people who live within 6 miles of the incinerator
have been issued protective plastic hoods, portable air filters, duct
tape and plastic and told to prepare a "safe room" in their homes.

Anniston is the first American city where citizens have been issued gas
masks by the government. For months, people have been urged to learn how
to use them. And they've been told that if a chemical leak occurs, don't
flee; instead, "shelter in place" in their homes, schools or businesses.

Safe rooms are being created in schools, jails and hospitals in the pink
zone. The government is spending $55 million to retrofit buildings where
the public gathers with refrigerator-size air-filtration systems,
according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A total of $140
million is being spent on Anniston's preparedness.

But that brings little comfort in the pink zone. Randy Hayes, 51, senior
pastor of Church on the Rock, says the preparations are "just to appease
people, so there's not widespread panic."

Many take it as a given that there will be an accident at the
incinerator, where the Army will destroy 4.5 million pounds of rockets
containing sarin, VX and nerve agents. (These are among chemicals the
U.S. government said were being produced by Saddam Hussein and could be
used by terrorists.)

People here say they know what it's like to feel betrayed.

Like thousands of others, Hayes is a plaintiff in one of several
class-action lawsuits against a former Monsanto chemical plant.

The lawsuits accuse the company of contaminating west Anniston for
decades with polychlorinated biphenyls  or PCBs  which probably cause
cancer. PCBs are also linked to low birth weight and learning
disabilities. Monsanto had no connection to the Army's incinerator.

In the pink zone, families have been decimated.

Uncles and aunts die early from cancer. Babies are born with major
organs outside their bodies. Children struggle with mysterious mood
swings and the inability to learn.

It didn't help that two days after starting to burn the weapons, the
Army said last Monday it was shutting down for a day because of
mechanical problems. The incinerator shut down again Tuesday but was
operating Wednesday.

This article can be viewed at:

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