Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sabotaging the Future

Apparently there are 250 sites in 40 states in the US where chemical warfare material has been buried.

The US was "only" required by the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons (CWC Treat 1997) to destroy chemical weapons stockpiled in storage, facilities for production, and chemicals that were "incidentally found and recovered from burial sites in various locations throughout the US" (page 11).

However, it seems that the existence of "hundreds of thousands of other CWM items" that were buried have been over the decades identified and inventoried.

Some of these sites are in residential areas, such as Spring Valley in Washington DC and Redstone Alabama.

The existing CWT does not require recovery of buried chemical weapons so long as they stay in place. However, they must be destroyed if recovered.

This situation obviously reinforces the decision to leave the chemical weapons that are buried where they are, unless a cost-benefit analysis shows that the costs are so great as to require recovery.

Unfortunately, the military has a very lousy record of environmental cleanup, even when their own soldiers lives are adversely affected.

Please see my post here for a detailed account of poisonings that have occurred on or around contaminated military bases

The report "Remediation of Buried Chemical Warfare Material" summarized and linked at the bottom of this post demonstrates a responsible effort to develop a plan for handling this problem of toxic waste buried throughout the nation.

One can only hope that the Pentagon will actually adopt a RESPONSIBLE approach in practice that protects human health and prioritizes the long-term well-being of our citizens over budget concerns.

In fact, clean up of toxic military sites has been an ongoing problem. 

In 1994 the number of sites identified as toxic reached 19,000. See the Statement of Neil M. Singer, Acting Assistant Director National Security Division Congressional Budget Office 1994

[Excerpted] Environmental contamination is widespread on U.S. military bases, and DoD's knowledge of the extent of the problem has grown significantly during the past decade. The number of potentially contaminated sites identified by DoD increased more than threefold during the 1987-1992 period. Today, almost 19,000 potentially contaminated sites are known to exist on defense facilities in the United States. The number of identified sites that present major hazards-those listed on the National Priorities List (NPL)--jumped from 29 to 101 since 1987.

Majia here: I cannot imagine what the number is now. I've been trying unsuccessfully to open a report by the Government Accounting Office at this link
I was able to open a 2010 report here that identifies 31,6000 sites eligible for cleanup under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program:

GAO (2010) Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and
Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives

[Excerpted] To that end, DOD has established the Defense Environmental Restoration Program (DERP) and identified over 31,600 sites that are eligible for cleanup, including about 4,700 formerly used defense sites (FUDS),1 which were closed before October 2006; 21,500 sites on active installations; and 5,400 sites identified by several Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commissions.2

Majia here: It is clear that like some psychopathic species of squirrels we have buried toxic waste around the nation for our future generations to inadvertently discover as toxins poison their soil and water.

There are responsible parties who seek to identify and remediate these toxic burials, but the incentives for leaving this legacy where it currently resides are seductive for those who worship the never-ceasing growth of weapons of mass destruction because remediation is exorbitantly expensive.

Here is the summary of the report on the remediation of buried chemical warfare material:

Remediation of Buried Chemical Warfare Material

Committee on Review of the Conduct of Operations for Remediation of Recovered Chemical Warfare Materiel from Burial Sites; Board on Army Science and Technology; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; National Research Council

[Excerpted] As the result of disposal practices from the early to mid-twentieth century, approximately 250 sites in 40 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 territories are known or suspected to have buried chemical warfare materiel (CWM). Much of this CWM is likely to occur in the form of small finds that necessitate the continuation of the Army's capability to transport treatment systems to disposal locations for destruction. Of greatest concern for the future are sites in residential areas and large sites on legacy military installations.

The Army mission regarding the remediation of recovered chemical warfare materiel (RCWM) is turning into a program much larger than the existing munition and hazardous substance cleanup programs. The Army asked the Nation Research Council (NRC) to examine this evolving mission in part because this change is significant and becoming even more prominent as the stockpile destruction is nearing completion. One focus in this report is the current and future status of the Non-Stockpile Chemical Material Project (NSCMP), which now plays a central role in the remediation of recovered chemical warfare materiel and which reports to the Chemical Materials Agency.

Remediation of Buried Chemical Warfare Materiel also reviews current supporting technologies for cleanup of CWM sites and surveys organizations involved with remediation of suspected CWM disposal sites to determine current practices and coordination. In this report, potential deficiencies in operational areas based on the review of current supporting technologies for cleanup of CWM sites and develop options for targeted research and development efforts to mitigate potential problem areas are identified.

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