Jun 21, 2007

Army Ceases VX Wastewater Shipments Until Hearing

The U.S. Army has agreed to stop shipping VX nerve gas wastewater to Port Arthur, Texas, until a federal judge is able to hear the case.

In May, environmental groups joined forces with a Port Arthur organization to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana against Veolia Environmental Services and the U.S. Department of the Army in protest of the incineration of wastewater from neutralized VX gas being performed at a Port Arthur facility.

According to the Southeast Texas Record, Veolia has a $49 million federal contract to destroy about 2 million gallons of the wastewater.

The VX is turned into wastewater at Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Newport, Ind., and then tested for activity before it is shipped to Texas. After the waste arrives at Veolia, the hydrolysate is compressed out of tanker trucks with nitrogen into holding tanks where it is mixed with water and other low toxicity chemicals so it is ready for incineration.

Veolia and the Army admit that the water is caustic, but say that it does not pose a threat to public health or safety.

However, Southeast Texas Record reports that The Community In-Power Development Organization, a Port Arthur group founded by Hilton Kelley, is angry that no one in the community had been told that possibly toxic material would be brought to their neighborhood. On May 8, CIDA filed a lawsuit with Sierra Club, the Chemical Weapons Working Group, Citizens Against Incineration at Newport and other Port Arthur plaintiffs to request an injunction to stop the shipments.

The community members are concerned that transporting the Newport Army Chemical Depot VX hydrolysate would worsen existing pollution-related health problems in Port Arthur, especially because this is the first time that agent hydrolysate has ever been incinerated anywhere.

On Monday the army agreed to stop the shipments until a preliminary hearing date is set.

Kelley told the Southeast Texas Record that the military has not sufficiently studied the danger that an accident or terrorist attack could mean to residents along the 1,000-mile stretch from Indiana to Southeast Texas.