From: Rick Callahan, Associated Press
Published April 12, 2007 12:00 AM

U.S. Army Signs French Company To Incinerate Nerve Agent Waste

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Army, thwarted in two previous bids to dispose of chemical waste from the destruction of a deadly VX nerve agent stockpile, has contracted with a French company to incinerate the waste at a Texas plant, but environmentalists said they will fight that effort as well.

Army spokesman Greg Mahall said Wednesday that Veolia Environmental Services had signed a $49 million (euro36.5 million) contract to truck about 2 million gallons of the caustic wastewater, called VX hydrolysate, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from western Indiana's Newport Chemical Depot to Port Arthur for incineration.

The deal, finalized Monday, comes three months after DuPont Co. dropped out of a plan to treat the hydrolysate at its Deepwater, New Jersey, plant, citing strong public opposition to its proposal to discharge the treated waste into the Delaware River.

Before that, the Army dropped Perma-Fix Environmental Services Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, in 2003 as a possible handler of the waste after Dayton residents complained about plans to dump the treated waste into the city's sewer system.

Mahall said the trucks could start hauling the waste within two weeks. They will pass through at least eight states: Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Craig Williams, director of the Kentucky-based Chemical Weapons Working Group, said his organization is talking with environmental and citizens groups in the states the trucks would pass through to plan a possible legal challenge.

Hilton Kelley, the director of Port Arthur's Community In-Power Development Association, said the group will fight the Army's plan, which he called "a classic case of environmental injustice" because of the southeastern Texas city's predominantly black and Latino population.

"Southeast Texas should not be the dumping ground for waste that no one else is willing to take," he said.

The Army produced its entire supply of VX -- a single droplet of which can kill a human in minutes -- at the Newport Chemical Depot, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Terre Haute.

Since a project began in May 2005 to destroy Newport's 250,000 gallons (946,000) of VX in chemical reactors, about 48 percent of that stockpile has been destroyed. When complete, that project is expected to leave behind about 1.8 million gallons (6.8 million liters) of hydrolysate, a substance that contains undetectable levels of VX.

Osbourne said the hydrolysate will be mixed with other water-based liquid waste, fed into the company's incinerators and heated to at least 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit (870 Celsius). The remaining solids, such as ash, will be buried in a permitted landfill in Louisiana, Osborne said.

Source: Associated Press

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