Thursday, July 04, 2002

Weapons disposal Ky. concern

By Robert Gehrke
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — Senators from Kentucky and Colorado say the managers of the Army's chemical weapons program are secretive and unresponsive, and the lawmakers want another agency to handle weapons disposal in their states.

        Edward C. Aldridge, the Pentagon's undersecretary in charge of technology, is deciding which agency should manage the neutralization of chemical weapons stored near Pueblo, Colo. The decision could also affect a similar facility near Richmond, Ky.

        The Army has traditionally relied on the Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization (PMCD) to manage the incineration of weapons, but Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., want the program based elsewhere.

        “This organization in the past has not demonstrated a strong commitment either in its degree of transparency or coordination with local officials and concerned citizens,” the senators wrote in a letter to Mr. Aldridge.

        The senators say the public would be better served if the disposal program is handled by the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment agency, which helped develop the neutralization technologies that will be used in Colorado.

        After intensive lobbying from the community and elected officials, the Pentagon decided in late March to use neutralization rather than incineration to dispose of 2,600 tons of dangerous mustard gas stored in Pueblo, Colo.

        “Senator Allard wants to ensure the Pueblo community has a strong, effective voice in the decision-making process in terms of the destruction of the chemical weapons stored at the Pueblo Army Depot,” said Allard spokesman Sean Conway.

        PMCD is in charge of chemical weapons incinerators in Johnston Atoll and Tooele, Utah, and is building and testing incinerators in Umatilla, Ore.; Anniston, Ala.; and Pine Bluff, Ark. The agency also manages neutralization programs in Aberdeen, Md., and Newport, Ind.

        “I think our record speaks for itself. We are the experts in the field,” said PMCD spokesman Barry Napp. “These are bad weapons, and we want them to go away using whatever methods are chosen.”


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- Weapons disposal Ky. concern