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
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.