(CN) – A federal judge in Washington, D.C., threw out a challenge to the Army’s plan to incinerate chemical weapons made during and after World War II in four facilities across the country.
The Chemical Weapons Working Group, made of up 20 citizen organizations, claimed that the Army failed to consider alternative technologies to dispose of the chemical agents stored at four of eight disposal sites across the United States.
U.S. District Judge Richard Eaton ruled that the Army took the requisite hard look at the environmental and human health risks of the demolitions, and determined that the risks were “minimal.”
The citizens’ group had claimed that the Army failed to consider new information on the toxicity of the chemicals and the heightened risks of human exposure at four sites. Storage and disposal sites in Anniston, Ala.; Pine Bluff, Ark.; Tooele, Utah; and Umatilla, Ore., contain rockets, artillery shells and other explosives, along with the chemical agent stored at the other four sites.
But Judge Eaton said the Army thoroughly reviewed alternative technologies, including neutralization, but determined that they were not ready or not reliable. He added that implementing new demolition technologies would require lengthy testing without any guarantee that it would reduce the impact on the environment or human health. Emissions of dioxin and furan at a trial site were “well below the U.S. standard,” the ruling states, and akin to burning fuel.
Currently, there are no alternatives capable of destroying the quantity and type of chemical warfare agents and munitions at the sites, according to the ruling.
“[T]here is no rational reason to employ a second technology at an astronomical cost to the American public when the preferred technology can destroy the entire inventory,” the Army had argued.
The demolition plan is part of a congressional mandate to rid the nation of stockpiled chemical weapons. The weapons are stored in ton containers, projectiles, mines and rockets at eight sites in the United States and at a prototype incineration facility in the Pacific Ocean.