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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 489-96
August 14, 1996

FEDERAL JUDGE CLEARS WAY FOR TOOELE, UTAH CHEMICAL AGENT DISPOSAL FACILITY TO START OPERATIONS

U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell decided in Salt Lake City, Utah, yesterday that chemical agents can be destroyed at the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility -- the storage site that holds more than 44 percent of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile. In a 28-page decision issued after a hearing lasting from July 22 to August 2, Judge Campbell denied a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by private groups led by the Kentucky-based Chemical Weapons Working Group.

Dr. Harold P. Smith Jr., assistant to the secretary of defense for Nuclear and Chemical and Biological Defense Programs, stated, I want to emphasize that our goal is to destroy the chemical weapons stockpile safely while providing maximum protection to the public, the work force, and the environment.

"This is a significant milestone in our joint effort with the people of Utah to make their community an even safer place to live," said Gilbert F. Decker, assistant secretary of the army for Research, Development and Acquisition.

We are pleased that the judge, after hearing all the evidence, concluded that this important program should go forward to destroy these dangerous weapons in an environmentally sound manner, said Lois J. Schiffer, assistant attorney general, Department of Justice.

Judge Campbell concluded that the plaintiffs did not show "that there is an actual risk to some person or persons posed by the emissions" at the Tooele facility. "For individuals living closest to TOCDF," the judge wrote, "the risks resulting from continued storage are one-hundred times greater than the risks resulting from disposal operations." Judge Campbell also held that the Army and its contractor, EG&G Defense Material, showed that problems alleged at the Pacific Ocean prototype facility and at Tooele, many of which were asserted by Steve Jones, a former Army and EG&G employee, either do not exist or that corrective actions have been taken.

The State of Utah approved trial burning of chemical agent on June 26. The Army voluntarily suspended start of the trial burn until Judge Campbell could review the challenge.

The Tooele facility is finalizing preparations to begin disposal of the chemical weapons stored in Utah. Nerve agent GB- filled M55 rockets will be destroyed first in operations currently scheduled to begin in the next seven to ten days.