View Full Version : Weapon destruction fears in Ala.

08-06-03, 06:11 AM
Weapon destruction fears in Ala.

By Kerry Sanders
ANNISTON, Ala., July 10 — Under a treaty, the United States has to get rid of nearly 47 million pounds of weapons of mass destruction by 2007. To that end, the Army is expected to begin burning chemical weapons at a depot in Anniston later this much, despite residents’ fears.

ARAMETTA PORTER cannot forget that day eight years ago in her front yard in Anniston. She was short of breath, and her heart was racing — paramedics thought she was having a stroke.
But now, as her face involuntarily contorts, she and her doctors believe the unthinkable: that she was exposed to chemical weapons by her own government.
“This has taken my quality of life away,” Porter says.
Just three miles upwind of Porter’s home, a stockpile of chemical weapons had leaked for three days. The U.S. Army does not dispute that the deadly GB nerve agent was accidentally released.
But officials say it’s highly unlikely she was exposed.
Fearing a fate similar to Porter’s, a growing and vigilant group of residents is protesting the Army’s intentions to burn the chemical weapons in a specially designed $500 million incinerator.

“They need to protect us,” Porter says. “We need to be protected.”
There are 4 1/2 million pounds of nerve agents and other weapons of mass destruction stored in Anniston. Some say they should be incinerated immediately because 850 weapons are leaking.
Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group disagrees. “Incineration is a perfect example of the way you don’t want to handle this material, which is expose it to heat, change it into a gas and have a delivery system in the form of a smokestack that can get this stuff out,” he says.
Incinerator start hazy
Across the country, there are eight sites where weapons are stored and destroyed. Four are incineration plants. Four others use a different process called chemical neutralization — a method critics in Anniston say is safer.
Getting rid of the nation’s 47 million pounds of chemical weapons is the responsibility of the U.S. Army’s Kevin Flamm.
“In all cases,” says Flamm, “we maximize the safety of the process, so as to ensure the protection of public and environment.”
With burning possible any day now, Porter is trying to speak out.
But when asked, she can’t talk. She shakes her head “no” and freezes. She wants to talk. She nods in agreement, smiles and then freezes.
MSNBC bioterrorism front page

When asked if she believes this is from exposure to chemical weapons, Porter nods.
In her silence, Porter hopes her message is heard before the government begins to burn this country’s obsolete weapons of mass destruction.





08-06-03, 06:13 AM
Army agrees to postpone Alabama chemical weapons disposal

By Jeffrey McMurray
1:55 p.m., August 5, 2003

WASHINGTON – The Army has agreed to postpone Wednesday's burning of chemical weapons at an incinerator in Anniston, Ala., until a federal judge can consider an environmental group's request for a restraining order.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson set a hearing for Friday morning to consider a motion by the Chemical Weapons Working Group for a temporary restraining order blocking startup of the incinerator. The Army had planned to begin operations Wednesday morning.

Army officials released a statement Tuesday afternoon announcing the decision but expressing confidence the judge would quickly reject the motion without further delay.

"The Army believes that it has fully complied with all legal requirements pertaining to the (incinerator) startup and emphasizes that public safety remains its primary concern," said Jim Abrams, a spokesman for the incinerator.

Abrams said it isn't clear when the incineration process would begin even if Jackson denies the working group's request early in the day Friday.

Under the original startup plan, the Army was preparing to move the chemical weapons into a storage facility Tuesday afternoon – a step that must be taken before incineration can begin. As part of its agreement announced Tuesday, no weapons will be destroyed – or even moved – until the judge's order is released.

The Army has already agreed not to move weapons during school hours, which means the moving process won't begin any earlier than late Friday afternoon. Under the original schedule, that would suggest incineration would start no earlier than Saturday morning, but Abrams wouldn't confirm any new timetable.

"We are right now just in a wait-and-see mode," Abrams said.

Craig Williams, executive director for the Chemical Weapons Working Group, said Jackson summoned both sides to court Tuesday afternoon to set a time for a hearing. The Army had originally objected to a postponement, Williams said, but later agreed to wait until the judge makes his ruling.

"We're working at this incrementally," Williams said. "We have stopped them for a couple days. We hope we'll get a ruling that will stop them through the temporary injunction phase."

If the group succeeds in getting a temporary injunction, it could delay incineration for several weeks pending consideration. Ultimately, the group would like to see a trial on the merits of the weapons burning and public safety concerns, a process that could take years.

It is expected to take seven years to destroy the 2,254 tons of Cold War-era chemical weapons housed at Anniston Army Depot. That represents just about 7 percent of the 31,000 tons the United States has agreed to destroy by 2007 under an international treaty.


On the Net:

Chemical Weapons Working Group: www.cwwg.org/