Court Upholds Safety of Chemical Weapons Incinerator

Court Upholds Safety of Chemical Weapons Incinerator

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with a lower court that the Army's chemical arms incinerator in Utah is safe and poses no imminent danger to the public or the environment.

The Denver court's ruling Tuesday affirmed a U.S. District Court ruling nearly three years ago by Judge Tena Campbell.

Craig Galli, a Salt Lake attorney representing the Army and EG&G Defense Materials Inc., the contractor that operates the facility near Tooele, said, "This is one of many rulings vindicating the safety of this facility and the process used to destroy chemical weapons."

The Kentucky-based Environmental Working Group, Sierra Club and Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation began fighting the incinerator when it started operations in 1996.

A 1998 incident in which a bomb containing nerve agent inadvertently was fed into the furnace was cited by the plaintiffs, who contended nerve agent seeped into the atmosphere.

The Army said that only a benign byproduct was released.

Campbell saw no evidence of danger from that release or from other alleged incinerator problems, including power failures and leaks into worker areas, and the appeals court agreed.

"All of the appellants' specific claims involved discrete past incidents of alleged misconduct -- incidents that were, we note, followed not only by efforts to assess whether any damage was done, but also by improvements in the facility's procedures to prevent even those (thankfully) harmless violations from occurring again," the appeals court said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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