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DuPont/Army river-dumping plan wants to put VX Nerve Gas in Del. River

Poison-disposal plan is safe, officials say
But some at a forum worried about dumping diluted nerve gas waste into the Delaware River.
By Dwight Ott and Troy Graham
Inquirer Staff Writers

CARNEYS POINT, N.J. - Army and DuPont Co. officials assured skeptical residents last night that it would be safe to destroy stockpiles of highly lethal chemicals and bring the waste to South Jersey to be treated and discharged into the Delaware River.

But residents and environmentalists balked at the plan to dump more than 1,200 tons of VX nerve agent - now stored in Indiana - into the river, which provides them with drinking water.

"They put on a good show, but I don't understand why they don't keep it in Indiana," said Norm Cohen, a coordinator of the Unplug Salem Campaign, a network of environmental organizations. "We already have nuclear plants dumping tons into the Delaware."

Army Col. Jesse Barber told more than 200 people at Penns Grove High School that the proposal "is safe and can be done without damaging the environment."

"This is the right thing to do for the country," he said. "When you look at terrorism, it underscores the need... . The greatest risk is the continued storage of such agents."

The Army has 30 days to take more public input before deciding whether to award a contract to a DuPont facility in Salem County to do the work.

A second public meeting is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Delaware Technical and Community College's conference center in downtown Wilmington.

Todd Owens, a DuPont chemical engineer, said tests had been done on the disposal of the nerve agent byproduct, but acknowledged that "this is the first time that it's ever been done on this scale."

But, he said, the plant, DuPont's Chambers Works Secure Environmental Treatment Unit in Deepwater, is using a similar process on a byproduct of mustard gas from Aberdeen, Md.

The Army plans to neutralize the odorless, tasteless VX nerve agent, which can kill on contact, by mixing it with sodium hydroxide. The resulting liquid would be mixed with hot water and sent to the Deepwater facility, which would treat the water again before releasing it into the river.

The nerve agent could be trucked into New Jersey via one of two routes - through Ohio and Pennsylvania along Interstate 80 and then down the New Jersey Turnpike, or through West Virginia and Maryland - and some of the gas could be brought by rail.

Environmentalists at last night's meeting said that the byproduct would be dumped into the Delaware near Wilmington, and that tidal waters could move the discharge upriver.

They also expressed concern about the impact on marine life near the Delaware Bay, which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. They said the discharge point is 100 miles upriver from the mouth of the Atlantic.

Amy Simmerman, a representative of U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D., N.J.), said Andrews opposes the dumping and would prefer that the nerve agent be processed in Indiana.

"The disposal of our chemical weapons is right and necessary. But this plan would dispose of these wastes in the wrong place and in the wrong way," she said.

Simmerman said Andrews would work with state, local and federal officials to defeat the plan.

Source: http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/8214426.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

Other sources for this story: http://www.greenlink.org/public/hotissues/vx32.html
 http://www.delawareonline.com/newsjournal/local/2004/01/17inputdueonnerve.html
i see... 19.Apr.2004 15:20

this thing here

so a waste mixture of VX nerve agents and sodium hydroxide is "not harmful" to fish and aquatic life.

give me a break.

aren't most chemical weapons incinerated? i don't understand where this new technique of flushing it down a waterway suddenly sprang up from. i note a sense of desperation on the part of the u.s. military here...

WMD Found!- in the Delaware 19.Apr.2004 16:30

O My Yes, Anything To Thwart Terrorism

"'This is the right thing to do for the country,' he said. 'When you look at terrorism, it underscores the need... . The greatest risk is the continued storage of such agents.'"

Yeah, if we just left it sitting around, terrorists might get ahold of it and... dump in it a river or something...

Leaving aside how terrorists could get ahold of it- where do they have it stored, in a hot pink trailer near an unguarded gate with a neon sign that says, "Welcome terrorists, free nerve gas"?

Paraphrase: "When you look at terrorism, it underscores the need to put your brain on hold, and smile and nod like spingloaded donkeys while we go into our act".

Terrorism must now be our favorite national sport / pasttime / hobby / condiment. Terrorism. It draws funding like a magnet, goes great on hot dogs, makes women notice you, makes America cannibalize its own Constitution, drives fish crazy. Ron Popeil should have thought of terrorism, it slices, it dices, it makes Julienne fries, it has 1,001 uses...

Was going to ask if Bob DuPont every recovered his sanity after sampling too many of his products, but if I could judge by this, apparently not.

just to get the process straight 19.Apr.2004 22:08

a chemist

The VX will be chemically broken down by sodium hydroxide in Illinois. The degradation process renders it harmless from a chemical weapons standpoint, but it still has a few nitrogen and phosphorus compounds that aren't safe to just dump. They claim detection limits of 20 parts per billion for VX left over from the reaction with sodium hydroxide. The waste will get trucked to the Chambers Works in DE, where it will be broken down by micro-organisms (which love the phosphorus and nitrogen). It is the digested waste that will be discharged.
It would be great to build a digestion plant in Illinois, but there was evidently loads of opposition. Chambers Works has the tools to deal with this, so they got the job. Based on the process that has been described, it looks safer than incineration. There are techniques coming that will be even safer than than this process ( super critical water oxidation), but IMHO, we need to get rid of this stuff now.

To sum up:

1) they aren't trucking VX, just its breakdown products
2)the breakdown products are going to be treated some more before going into the Delaware