Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fun With Chemical Weapons

America's chemical weapons continue to be a greater threat to US citizens than they ever were to our "enemies." The federal government claims it has no money to clean up Camp Sibert, a highly contaminated site in Alabama which was formerly the nation's largest repository of chemical weapons.

A check in 2002 unearthed an old artillery shell containing the chemical phosgene, a choking agent, in a field near a family's home in Etowah County. The house is located at what was once an artillery range where troops trained in the use of chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, mustard gas leaks from a storage building:
Leaking mustard agent has been found in a second Blue Grass Army Depot storage building near Richmond, the Army announced yesterday. The building, known as an igloo, is being filtered to prevent the chemical agent from escaping into the air.
Disposal of these useless weapons - which have primarily been used on US citizens acting as human guinea-pigs - continues to be...well, problematic. The incinerator at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Tooele, Utah is unreliable, to say the least. The Pentagon wants to tear it down when (or if) it finishes destroying its allotment of chemical weapons. But Utah Republicans can't bear the thought of losing this symbol of wastefulness, misplaced bellicosity, and environmental ruin. They want to turn it into a disposal site for conventional weapons.
"This large investment should not be abandoned," the Utahns wrote. "It would be a more responsible use of taxpayer funds, as well as more environmentally friendly, to consider converting the chemical destruction plant to a conventional munitions disposal operation rather than completely dismantling and tearing down this facility."
It's interesting to compare Republican solicitude for this godforsaken locale to their disregard for, say, Otero Mesa or ANWR. Saying that it's "environmentally friendly" to keep the Tooele incinerator running for the next couple of decades is like saying that it's hygienic to bathe in raw sewage.

In other news, two of our primary nerve-gas incinerators are apparently bedeviled by poltergeists:
The Umatilla Chemical Depot in Oregon had its fourth fire in as many months Friday night, temporarily suspending operations to destroy M55 rockets filled with GB sarin nerve agent. Previous fires were April 7 and 23 and May 18 at the depot, which is 35 miles south of the Tri-Cities. The fires each started in the M55 GB sarin rockets' motor section as a shearing machine was chopping up the rockets.
Similar fires have been breaking out at Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas. Fortunately, this is of no concern whatsoever:
The Army concluded in a preliminary assessment that safety at the incineration operations won't be reduced even if such fires continue.


Phila said...


Here you go.

Anonymous said...

Phila - Glad to see you back in the swing.

Just to show that we know how to kick it old school: this link describes the WWI-era munitions cleanup that's been underway at American University in Washington DC, where I once lived and now teach. Thanks for shedding a little light on more recent examples.

Anonymous said...

Yup, it is interesting how Saddam managed to clean-up so well. Hell, the DoD can't keep track of all the nasties they have. Especially if you include the nasty chemicals the Army once used or tested as propellants for missiles (carrying say, chemical warheads). One of these lovlies, pentaborane, was stored for 40+ years (read ignored) until one of the 200lb cannisters exploded killing several workers (the stuff spontaneously combusts in air at 70 degrees F). Then it was a mad scramble to find where this stuff was stored. And yes (you guessed it)they burned it outdoors. Didn't matter what or who was downwind - it was an "emergency". "Combustion byproducts" were deposited downwind for miles - considering how much WMD BushCo said Saddam had its amazing how few of the telltale signs of disposal turn up in Iraq (or we'd of heard!).

Anonymous said...

"Then it was a mad scramble to find where this stuff was stored. And yes (you guessed it)they burned it outdoors." Interesting stuff. The public has yet to know the full story. Section 54 was only officially acknowledged when a toxic burn off caused catastrophic illness among its employees downwind. M

Phila said...

Cervantes and Kwark,

Come on now...everyone knows Saddam simply carried 30 or 40 truckloads of sarin and VX over the desert to Syria, while evading our many high-res satellites, drone overflights, and reconaissance missions. How could the innocent lambs at BushCo HQ have imagined he'd be so sneaky?

Phila said...

BTW, Cervantes...nice to see you. Hope you're feeling better!