WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
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July 15, 2008
Sarin that leaked Friday should
have been destroyed
By Ashlee Clark
The sarin nerve agent that leaked at the Blue Grass Army Depot on Friday should have been destroyed two months ago, under a plan approved in January.
But the agency responsible for neutralizing the agent has not even started constructing the facility for the destruction.
In January, officials approved a plan that called for the 157 gallons of GB, or sarin, stored at the depot to be drained, neutralized and removed from the facility by May.
But two months after the initial disposal deadline, the sarin is still kept in ton containers at the depot that are still leaking.
“Literally, we are moving as fast as we can,” said Richard Sloan, spokesman for the depot. “It may look like a turtle in the middle of a race, but we are moving as fast as safety dictates.”
Officials announced Friday night that a leak was detected in the storage igloo where the Army stores the sarin. Ambient air under a containment cover in the igloo tested positive for sarin. Toxic-chemical workers went into the igloo Monday to monitor the containers.
Sloan said the leak wasn't a danger to the community or the environment, and the igloo will remain under continuous filtration to ensure that vapor doesn't leak into the atmosphere.
Officials at the depot say the “overly optimistic” neutralization time line has been extended to an undetermined date because of unforeseen delays in obtaining approval from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection.
Friday's leak originated from the same ton container from which a gallon of sarin escaped in August. The three steel ton containers that hold sarin have been deteriorating because of the corrosive nature of the chemical and the decontaminants it is mixed with.
The August leak was the largest in depot history and prompted Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, the agency responsible for the destruction of the depot's chemical weapons stockpile, to adopt a plan in January to dispose of the sarin.
Sarin is an odorless and tasteless liquid with a consistency similar to water. The substance readily evaporates when it is released from a munition, creating a vapor hazard, according to Blue Grass Chemical Activity, the chemical weapons operation at the depot.
The plan to get rid of the sarin, called Operation Swift Solution, was scheduled to begin in March. The operation calls for officials to bring in employees and a chemical-agent transfer system from Maryland to take the sarin from its containers to a 20-gallon on-site reactor, where it will be neutralized. The project will cost about $1.7 million and take 80 days to complete.
But it has taken longer than expected to obtain the proper permits from KDEP to proceed with the disposal, officials say.
Sloan said the approval process has been extensive. ACWA and depot officials have had to submit specific plans for the sarin neutralization and meet state regulations and codes of which they were unaware.
“Unfortunately, the amount of information that has needed to be put together and submitted to the state was unrealized,” said Dave Easter, spokesman for ACWA.
The state has recently granted ACWA temporary authorization to begin setting up equipment for the neutralization, said Kevin Flamm, program manager for ACWA.
“It's clear that this is the first time we've done destructive operations in Kentucky, so everything is very methodical,” he said.
Construction on a foundation for a chemical-agent transfer system should begin next Monday, Easter said.
Flamm declined to give a new deadline for the project.
“(If) for some reason we need to go a little bit slower to make sure the procedures meet our expectation, we'll go a little bit slower,” he said.
Craig Williams, executive director of the Berea-based Chemical Weapons Working Group, said there are always unanticipated setbacks to such projects.
“I think I've grown accustomed to schedule slippage in all facets of this program, so it's not anything surprising,” Williams said of the current delays.
Army officials are doing their best to expedite the removal of the sarin, Williams said.
“Certainly this repeat leak that occurred is indicative that the actions that they're taking are called for,” he said.
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A little info on Uncle Sam’s uses for sarin gas:
Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD)
Flower Drum, Phase I
Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) was part of the joint service chemical and biological warfare test program conducted during the 1960s. Project SHAD encompassed tests designed to identify US warships’ vulnerabilities to attacks with chemical or biological warfare agents and to develop procedures to respond to such attacks while maintaining a war-fighting capability.
The purposes of the Flower Drum, Phase I test were to find a simulant to sarin nerve agent, to assess shipboard vulnerability to an enveloping vapor of toxic agent, and to establish comparative penetration properties for sarin nerve agent simulant and actual agent. The USS George Eastman(YAG-39) was exposed to candidate sarin nerve agent simulants as well as sarin nerve agent. The ship was enveloped by the test agent disseminated from a gas turbine mounted on the bow of the test ship and by simulated envelopment—direct injection of the test agent into the air supply system....
The Department of Defense (DoD) is providing this information, at the request of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to assist the VA in providing healthcare services to qualified veterans and to assist veterans in establishing service connection for disability claims....
FLOWER DRUM, PHASE I
All personnel worked in teams of two or more persons and all teams were checked in and out of the Safety Citadel.
Following the termination of sampling, a full aeration of the ship was accomplished. For the sarin nerve agent trials, aeration of the ship continued until the enzyme ticket test of the M15A1 Detector Kit indicated there was no nerve agent in the exhaust air. When negative results were obtained at the exhaust vents, properly protected personnel confirmed the absence of sarin nerve agent within each area—again using the enzyme ticket test of the M15A1 Detector Kit.
Flower Drum, Phase I, tests were conducted in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Hawaii, over the periods February through April and August through September 1964....
Sarin gas is classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a volatile and lethal nerve agent. Occupational Exposure limits are .0001mg/m 3. It can enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, through the eyes, and to a lesser extent through the skin. Symptoms may occur within minutes depending on dose and include runny nose, watery eyes, drooling, tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing, dimness of vision, nausea, vomiting, cramps, loss of bladder/bowel control, twitching, jerking, staggering, confusion, drowsiness, coma, and death.
Very little information is available regarding prolonged exposures to low levels and no information is available regarding potential carcinogenicity. Rapid decontamination is critical and administration of atropine every 5-10 minutes is necessary until symptoms are minimized. Complete recovery can take months and permanent damage to central nervous system is possible.
(Source: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/Agent/Nerve/Sarin/Sarin.asp )....
(Sources: http://hazard.com/msds/tox/f/q4/q936.html ... and http://www.hbcollege/chem/lab/organic/ )
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A curious catbird question: If a single drop of sarin can kill dozens of human beings, why did the U.S. spend millions of dollars to manufacture tons of the deadly stuff...UNLESS THEY INTENDED TO USE IT!
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For more on Project SHAD, GO TO > > > Uncle Sam’s Guinea Pigs
November 22, 2006
Depot may have WMDs until 2023
PENTAGON PUSHES BACK DESTRUCTION
By Cassondra Kirby, Lexington Herald-Leader
RICHMOND - Madison County might not be rid of its weapons of mass destruction until 2023 or later, according to new Pentagon budget projections.
The news did not sit well with county officials, who held a news conference yesterday to protest the delay.
"The longer that these chemicals are here, the harder my job is," said Carl Richards, Madison's emergency management director. The older they get, "the harder to monitor and the harder to keep safe they become," Richards said.
In Washington, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was disappointed that the Pentagon was "backsliding" on its commitment to destroy the stockpile of chemical weapons.
More than 500 tons of deadly nerve agent and skin blistering agent are stored at Blue Grass Army Depot, a few miles from downtown Richmond. Plans call for a $2 billion plant to be built at the depot to chemically neutralize the weapons.
Officials have projected that the Blue Grass facility would need about $1.72 billion over five years, beginning in 2008, to destroy the weapons by 2015, the most recent target completion date.
But the Pentagon has proposed only about half that amount. If the budget is adopted in January, the Blue Grass facility would receive $875 million from 2008 to 2013, according to internal Pentagon documents obtained by the Chemical Weapons Working Group.
The reduced funding would slow construction of the plant, which is just beginning, and would most likely mean that fewer skilled chemists, engineers and control-room operators could be hired to run it. And instead of working seven days a week to destroy the weapons quickly, the plant would operate only about four days.
Under these conditions, it would take workers about six years to destroy the weapons once they begin, instead of two to three years.
Critics say the Pentagon is spreading the project out over more years to free up money to spend on other priorities now.
"It's purely financial," said Craig Williams, director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a Berea-based coalition of citizen groups from stockpile sites.
Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib said the delay is the result of several factors, including unexpected emerging costs and challenges in developing the facility and testing the process that will be used to destroy the weapons.
He denied that other priorities, such as the war in Iraq, have drained money from the destruction effort.
"Chemical weapons disposal is something we are really committed to, but something we need to do safely," Isleib said. "We want to do it in such a way that works for the environment, works for the local people and works for the people working with the stuff. It's something we take very seriously."
But McConnell noted that the plan "would subject the people living near the Blue Grass Army Depot to the dangers of chemical weapons until well into the 2020s."
"I am going to continue to lead the fight to ensure that these heinous weapons are disposed of in a safe and timely manner," he said in a statement.
Richards, the emergency management director, noted that some of the weapons will be nearly 100 years old before they're destroyed. And as the weapons age, the stability of the chemicals becomes more questionable. The highest risk to the community is not in disposing of the chemicals, but in storing them, Richards said.
There have been nearly a dozen leaks at the depot in recent years. No one was injured in those incidents.
And while slowing work might save the Pentagon money now, it will cost more in the long run because of security and maintenance costs, critics say.
"This proposal goes in exactly the opposite direction of what we have been trying to achieve," said Doug Hindman, chairman of the Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens Advisory Commission. "It increases the costs and it slows down destruction of the weapons. It's ridiculous."
Citing recent statements made by Congress and outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, many of those at the news conference said they had thought government officials considered funding for the plant a top priority. They said they were "blind-sided" by the Pentagon's new plans.
With slightly more than 40 percent of its stockpile destroyed, the United States is behind schedule in its efforts to comply with an international treaty. That treaty sets a destruction deadline of April 2007, with a possible one-time extension to April 2012.
In an April letter, Rumsfeld assured members of Congress that he would continue to request resources needed to destroy the weapons as close to April 2012 as possible.
"But what does the Pentagon do? Williams said yesterday. "They send back a budget that says we are going to sit on this an extra eight years. This just flies in the face of what everybody is saying needs to be done in regards to this issue."
Failure to comply with the treaty could mean sanctions involving trade agreements between countries or against a country's chemical industry. But action is not likely to be taken if the country is showing a good-faith effort to destroy its weapons, experts say.
But it isn't the treaty that worries people in Madison. They're more worried about the threat of having thousands killed, Williams said.
He said the Blue Grass facility has more than 70,000 M55 rockets loaded with nerve agent.
The rockets pose the biggest risk in the stockpile, Williams said.
"The Pentagon -- based on this funding proposal -- is saying we don't care about that risk," Williams said. "They are saying, 'You, Central Kentucky, you are going to have to sit on this risk an extra eight years because we don't want to fund the program to eliminate that risk. That's outrageous."
November 19, 2006
Nerve gas byproduct dumping OK'd
ASSOCIATED PRESS, NorthJersey.com
MAURICE RIVER TOWNSHIP -- This Cumberland County community has voted to back the Army's plan to dispose of the byproduct of a deadly nerve agent in the Delaware Bay, and hopes to get a boardwalk built as part of the deal.
In March, township officials and local fishermen expressed reservations about dumping the byproduct of the VX nerve agent 30 miles upriver of the Delaware Bay's oyster beds. But the three-man Township Committee decided last week to give its approval.
Township Committeeman Norm Frankel told The Press of Atlantic City that the reversal was due partly to the possibility of a new boardwalk that could give hikers, bird-watchers and fishermen access through the marshes.
"The Army is offering different bonuses for going along with that," Frankel said
A spokesman for the Army's Chemical Materials Agency said the agency had not offered to build a boardwalk. DuPont spokesman Anthony Farina told The Press he was familiar with discussions but that no deal had been reached.
The Army last year began neutralizing 250,000 gallons of the nerve agent at western Indiana's Newport Chemical Depot, and has sought approval to ship the byproduct to a DuPont facility in Deepwater, where it would be treated and then discharged into the Delaware River.
Under a provision inserted into a broad military spending bill signed by President Bush last month, the General Accountability Office must review studies of the plan before the VX byproduct can be taken to New Jersey. That could delay the dumping until at least February.
VX is so deadly a single drop can kill. The Army is required by a 1997 international treaty to destroy the chemical weapon by 2012.
March 3, 2005
U.S. used banned weapons
in Fallujah – Health ministry
Dr. Khalid ash-Shaykhli, an official at Iraq’s health ministry, said that the U.S. military used internationally banned weapons during its deadly offensive in the city of Fallujah.
Dr. ash-Shaykhli was assigned by the ministry to assess the health conditions in Fallujah following the November assault there.
He said that researches, prepared by his medical team, prove that U.S. occupation forces used internationally prohibited substances, including mustard gas, nerve gas, and other burning chemicals in their attacks in the war-torn city.
The health official announced his findings at a news conference in the health ministry building in Baghdad.
The press conference was attended by more than 20 Iraqi and foreign media networks, including the Iraqi ash-Sharqiyah TV network, the Iraqi as-Sabah newspaper, the U.S. Washington Post and the Knight-Ridder service.
Dr. ash-Shaykhli started the conference by reporting the current health conditions of the Fallujah residents. He said that the city is still suffering from the effects of chemical substances and other types of weapons that cause serious diseases over the long term.
Asked whether limited nuclear weapons were also used by U.S. forces in Fallujah, Dr. ash-Shaykhli said; “What I saw during our research in Fallujah leads me to me believe everything that has been said about that battle.
“I absolutely do not exclude their use of nuclear and chemical substances, since all forms of nature were wiped out in that city. I can even say that we found dozens, if not hundreds, of stray dogs, cats, and birds that had perished as a result of those gasses.”
Dr. ash-Shaykhli promised to send the findings of the researches to responsible bodies inside Iraq and abroad.
Fallujah residents said napalm gas was used.
During the U.S. offensive, Fallujah residents reported that they saw “melted” bodies in the city, which suggests that U.S. forces used napalm gas, a poisonous cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel that makes the human body melt.
In November, Labour MPs in the UK demanded Prime Minister Tony Blair to confront the Commons over the use of napalm gas in Fallujah.
Furious critics have also demanded that Blair threatens the U.S. to pullout British forces from Iraq unless the U.S. stops using the world’s deadliest weapon.
The United Nations banned the use of the napalm gas against civilians in 1980 after pictures of a naked wounded girl in Vietnam shocked the world.
The United States, which didn't endorse the convention, is the only nation in the world still using the deadly weapon.
January 9, 2004
DuPont may treat
nerve agent waste
Groups concerned disposal of deadly
VX poses risks to people, Del. River
Delaware News Journal
Millions of pounds of treated waste from a deadly nerve agent could soon pass through a DuPont Co. complex at the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge in New Jersey. The proposed project is part of a federal program to reduce the nation's chemical-weapons stockpiles.
The Army is scheduled to decide later this month whether to approve a plan to ship the wastes from Indiana to DuPont's Chambers Works plant in Deepwater, N.J., for final treatment. The prospect has drawn questions from environmental groups in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Some of the groups contend DuPont's treatment plan poses potential risks to the Delaware River, a waterway that state officials believe has a toxic pollution problem.
DuPont already is conducting treatment trials on wastes from the deadly nerve agent VX at the company's Chambers Works Secure Environmental Treatment unit, along the Delaware.
"While the treatability study is continuing, the results we have today show us we're going to be able to treat it effectively and safely," said John Strait, Chambers Works plant manager.
The Chambers Works unit, one of the world's largest industrial wastewater treatment plants, had trouble fully treating similar material from the same nerve-weapon stockpile in Indiana in tests during the mid-1990s, according to DuPont and an official at the Army's Newport Chemical Depot. But treatment methods have improved since then, they said.
The Army last month dropped a plan to send the same wastes to a Dayton, Ohio, treatment system. A consultant hired by Montgomery County, where Dayton is located, said proposed treatment methods for the waste need more testing and monitoring to determine whether they pose a risk to people and the environment.
"Why is the Delaware Valley rushing to put their arms around something that was just stopped cold in Ohio?" asked John Kearney, who represents the Clean Air Council in Delaware.
Strait said DuPont's system is expected to render all of the wastes harmless. The same plant already has treated a different mix of chemicals formed during neutralization of mustard gas stockpiled at a military installation in Aberdeen, Md.
Liquid VX ranks among the military's most lethal chemical weapons, with a fraction of a drop on the skin likely to be fatal.
Bruce A. Rittmann, a civil, chemical and biological engineer at Northwestern University, said minute traces of VX and another nerve agent could remain in the neutralized wastes, which are highly toxic. Rittmann evaluated the waste treatment for Montgomery County and said some of the wastes could have passed unchanged through the Ohio operation.
"Given the threat to the environment and community, I think all the questions need to be answered and the answers need to be public. That's just my personal opinion," Rittmann said. "This is not just a run-of-the-mill industrial waste treatment scenario. This is really special, high-risk stuff and its handling deserves full public scrutiny."
Terry L. Arthur, public affairs officer for the Army's Newport Chemical Depot and Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, said the military would decide after Jan. 21 if it will ship the neutralized VX for waste treatment. The work is part of an estimated $300 million contract managed by Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group Inc., a California-based company.
"Our goal is to eliminate the risks to the community," Arthur said. "Since 9/11, folks have been worried about the potential for a terrorist attack" targeting chemical weapons stockpiles.
Only minute traces of VX and another less-deadly nerve agent would remain in neutralized wastes shipped off for treatment, an Army official said. The Army plan would bar shipments of wastes containing more than 20 parts per billion of VX. By comparison, one part per billion is equal to about a drop in a swimming pool.
Containers of the waste would be shipped by both rail and truck, along routes yet to be determined.
Past concerns about the waste, cited in government documents and public debates in the Midwest, include an offensive, skunk-like odor and a slight risk that the VX could spontaneously reform in the broken down wastes.
DuPont has said it plans to pretreat the wastes when they arrive to reduce the odors. That process also would reduce levels of a compound that plays a part in VX reformation, the company said.
Several environmental organizations say DuPont needs to answer more questions about environmental risks along the river.
Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has in the past asked the Environmental Protection Agency to have the river listed as "impaired" based on signs of chronic toxic pollutants, a move that could restrict any new toxic wastewater releases to the river. DuPont opposed the designation during state and EPA reviews. Studies of the issue are continuing.
Three environmental groups - Green Delaware, the Sierra Club Delaware chapter and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network - said they were concerned about the project.
"There's a moral obligation and a corporate obligation to let us know what's going on, and don't do it in little one-on-one meetings," said Maya van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. "Have a big public meeting and let everybody know. Put the information out and seek public comment and input."
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CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL CHRONOLOGY
t t t t t
IRAQ BODY COUNT
National Priorities Project - Cost of War
A Timeline of Oil and Violence in Iraq
THE EAGLE HOODED: THE 9-11 COVERUP
PART I - PART II - PART III
The Real Cindy Sheehan
THE MOVEMENT TO IMPEACH BUSH
VOTE TO IMPEACH BUSH
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BIRDS THAT DRINK FROM CESSPOOLS
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A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING KAMEHAMEHA’S COURT
ALOHA, HARKEN ENERGY
BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS
THE BRIBES & BOONDOGGLES OF BOEING
CONDOLEEZZA & THE CHICKEN HAWKS
DOWN THE RABBIT-HOLE
DROWNING IN THINK TANKS
THE FALL OF THE TITAN
FIRST HAWAIIAN BANK: CAPTURED BY THE FRENCH IN ‘98
IT’S ABOUT THE OIL, STUPID!
NASA AND THE ‘WAR ON TRUTH’
PIMPS TO POWER
THE EAGLE AWAKES
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THE SECRET LIVES OF DUKE & DUSTY
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THE TURKEY NESTS
THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
THE PEREGRINE GALLERY PRESENTS ROBERT GATES
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THE NESTS OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
UNCLE SAM’S GUINEA PIGS
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Last update July 15, 2008, by The Catbird