This is probably one of the most disturbing issues I've been reading about lately.. the pending decision of the location to dispose of the treated VX Nerve agent. What location is on the table? The Delaware River.
Here is the current proposal and history:
The U.S. Army is proposing to pre-treat stockpiles of VX nerve agent at its Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Newport Indiana, and then transport the resulting hydrolysate across the country to the Dupont Chambers Works facility at Carney’s Point, Salem County, NJ for final treatment and disposal into the Delaware River.
The Chemical Weapons Convention, in force as of April 29, 1997, requires destruction of chemical weapons by the year 2007. The US stopped production and shipment of chemical agent and weapons in the late 1960’s. For nearly 40 years chemical weapons have been stored at the Newport Chemical Depot. Originally the Army agreed with its Indiana Citizens’ Advisory Commission and planned to destroy and dispose of the VX nerve agent stored at the Depot on site, at the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 the Army changed its mind, and decided to partially treat the nerve agent on site, turning it from VX nerve agent to VX hydrolysate, and then transport it to an alternative facility for final treatment and disposal.
The Newport Indiana community has repeatedly voiced its preference that the VX nerve agent be treated, destroyed and disposed of on site in Newport as originally agreed to by the Army. But the Army has, unilaterally, decided to veer from that agreed upon course of action.
First the Army proposed to ship the VX hydrolysate to a company in Ohio for further treatment and disposal. A strong public outcry against the proposal forced the Army to abandon it. By August 2003, the Army was already proposing to instead ship the VX hydrolysate to Dupont along the Delaware River although the proposal was only noticed publicly in December 2003.
Please read the full report on the Army's plan and information surrounding the limited testing on VX hydrolysate.
Dupont stated that through their studies they believe the residual phosphonates from the treatment would have "no substantial effects" on the Delaware River ecology.
The CDC report states that they believe Dupont's treatment process to be effective because the reduction of phosphonates and VX are to levels below the detection limits of the instruments used in the analysis. They do NOT make any guarentee it will not contaminate our drinking water, and just state it's "unlikely". However, they do provide an example of when it actually could contaminate our drinking water if there is an oversite of toxicity levels made by Dupont during drought conditions. (Is that supposed to be comforting????)
I haven't found any statement in either report regarding the levels at which the instruments detect the phosphonates and VX. Just that the measurement results were "non-detect". Does that mean the VX in the hydrolysate could be just slightly under the 20 ppb? Another tid-bit from the full report which is a statement from the Ohio EPA:
According to an Ohio EPA study, VX at a level of 20 ppb after 17.4 hours killed half of the striped bass exposed. As a result of this and numerous other concerns, an agency toxicologist “strongly recommended” against discharge of treated VX hydrolysate into the local POTW and waterbody until there was “more information about the possible toxic effects of the treated hydrolysate discharge on aquatic life”. (Interoffice Memo from John F. Estenik, DSW, Toxics Advisor, Subject Treated VX Hydrolysate Discharge Recommendation Technical Report, October 10, 2003, Ohio EPA)
To make a very bad situation even worse.. the Army intends to haul the toxic (and flammable) VX agent across our highways on an average of 2 to 3 times a day for up to THREE years.
A full fact sheet on the Proposal to Treat and Discharge VX Nerve Agent into the Delaware River, which covers most of the major concerns surrounding this issue, is presented by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network and co-plantiffs in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky have recently sued the Army to stop the shipment and disposal of the partially treated VX nerve agent in New Jersey.
The Newtwork has also provided means to contact the government so you can Help Stop the Pollution of our waterways. Please take the time to fill in your information and you can auto-generate a letter you can print and send if you do not have the time to send a personalized letter to our government officials.
I do not want to be part of this science experiment, and I'm sure you don't either. Please send the letter.