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DuPont announced that it will not participate in the revised proposal to transport wastewater from the U.S. Army’s destruction of chemical agent in Newport, Ind., to DuPont’s Chambers Works facility in Deepwater, N.J., for final treatment.
“During our three-year evaluation of the Newport proposal, it has become increasingly clear to us that the approval process will be lengthy and arduous, even with the supportive conclusions reached by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in their independent reviews,” said Nick Fanandakis, vice president and general manager of DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise. “Therefore, we believe it is in the best interests of New Jersey and DuPont not to proceed.”
“This kills the Army’s plan to bring VX to the Delaware River,” said Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper. “This is a great day for the River and the people of New Jersey, Delaware and the states that the nerve agent waste would have been trucked through. This is the right decision by Dupont—there is no way this ill-fated scheme would have survived the law suit we just filed and no way it could have been legally permitted by NJDEP”
DuPont has notified the U.S. Army of its decision and remains committed to continue working with the U.S. government, in particular the Department of Defense, across a broad array of applications, services and technologies, Fanandakis said.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network and co-plaintiffs from organizations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Kentucky filed a complaint in federal District Court against the U.S. Army on December 21. The suit challenged the transport of VX hydrolysate from Indiana to New Jersey based on a federal statute that bans the transportation of chemical weapons across state lines and complained that federal environmental regulations were not being followed by the Army.
The Governors of New Jersey and Delaware, elected representatives, municipal and county governments, fishermen and boaters, conservationists, environmental groups and thousands of residents in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware went on record in opposition to the Army’s Dupont plan.
The proposal was made in early 2004 when the Army was denied approval to ship the waste to Ohio. Originally the VX stockpile was going to be destroyed on site in Indiana through a less risky process with no discharge of toxics to a waterway. Super Critical Water Oxidation was chosen as the safest method of destroying the VX stockpile and won support of the local residents and the State of Indiana following the 1997 international Chemical Weapons Treaty. Congress began to commit funds to install the system on site at the Army’s facility. After the attacks of September 11, 2001 the federal administration made a decision to try to dispose of the weapons at an existing facility, arguing it would be faster than building a plant at the Army Depot at Newport.
The option of off-site disposal, however, proved to be time-consuming and fraught with unforeseen problems. First the Army tried to send it to Ohio, who rejected it, then to New Jersey. Live VX, the deadliest nerve agent ever produced, is difficult to break down, highly flammable and not uniform in its constituents due, in part, to various stabilizers used in the batches that make up the approximately 1,269 tons stored at Newport.
“One drop of VX nerve agent kills a person in just a few minutes,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network. “The VX hydrolysate they wanted to bring to New Jersey and the Delaware River is a breakdown product containing the ingredients of that terrible weapon. It never made any sense to try to move it off site. The Army should get to work now in earnest to destroy VX and all the chemical weapon stockpiles in the U.S. where each is stored by the most environmentally safe method possible.”