for more information contact:
Craig Williams 859-986-7565
Hilton Kelley 409-498-1088
for immediate release: 8 December 2008
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS AGREE TO "TOLERATE" SMALL SHIPMENT
OF CHEMICAL WARFARE WASTE TO PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS
Emergency Situation in Kentucky Overrides Opposition - But Groups Steadfastly Oppose
Future Larger Shipments of Weapons Waste to Veolia Incinerator
An emergency situation in Kentucky has created a unique circumstance wherein environmental and social justice groups in Texas have agreed to accept waste similar to that which both organizations and their allies in the recent past fought vigorously against.
Over the past few years, the CWWG (Chemical Weapons Working Group), a Berea, Kentucky based coalition focused on safe elimination of the nation's chemical weapons stockpiles fought successfully to prevent chemical agent VX hydrolysate from being shipped to Ohio and New Jersey from an Army facility in Indiana. More recently they and CIDA (Community In-Power Development Association) a grassroots citizens group in Port Arthur, Texas fought unsuccessfully to stop that material from being sent and incinerated in Texas. Through education, public protest, political action and litigation, the citizens argued that moving such materials across the country to be burned in an already pollution burdened community was not acceptable. However, a federal judge ruled in favor of the Army, and before the opposition groups could appeal the decision, the last of the shipments was sent to the Veolia facility in Port Arthur for incineration.
Now, however, special circumstances have caused these same groups to reluctantly accept a small amount of GB (Sarin) hydrolysate from the storage site in Kentucky. The Indiana waste totaled almost 2 Million gallons, while the Kentucky liquids will be in the neighborhood of 8,000 gallons - or about 2 ISO (transport) containers, compared to almost 400 from Indiana.
According to the Army, the Veolia incinerator in Port Arthur is the only facility permitted to handle this type of waste.
"The situation in Kentucky is that there are leaking containers of GB (Sarin) agent contaminated liquid that must be destroyed immediately and there is no capacity to deal with the resultant liquids at this site," said Craig Williams, CWWG Director. "Our organization and the entire Kentucky Governor's Commission have communicated in the strongest terms, our opposition to shipping the vastly larger amount of liquid materials generated from disposing of the remaining 523 tons of agent stored here to Texas," said Williams. That larger operation is not scheduled to begin until around 2015.
Hilton Kelly, Director of the CIDA group in Port Arthur said, "Although we don't desire any more of this material to be brought here to our community, we recognize at the same time, these are special circumstances. Our fellow citizens in Kentucky are under the gun, being at risk due to these leaking containers and we feel it is our duty to step up and assist them in their time of need." Kelly also stated, "However, this should not be interpreted as opening the door to such shipments in the future. If the Army believes we are willing to accept more, they are sorely mistaken."
In the case of the Indiana shipments, plans were made and permits issued to erect a treatment facility on site to handle that waste. The Army however changed its mind and secretly contracted with Veolia to take and burn the waste.
The Program Manager of the Army's disposal program in Kentucky, Kevin Flamm, has gone on the record stating that, "This course of action [hydrolysate shipment to Texas] is not intended to set a precedent in any way with respect to the secondary waste generated by the Blue Grass Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant."
That Plant will include a separate treatment capability to handle the neutralized materials from their stores of GB, VX and Mustard agent when operations begin.
Processing of the leaking materials began in KY on November 12. The two ISO containers of liquid waste will be shipped sometime in late January or February of next year, after all the agent contaminated materials have been neutralized.