While the world worries about possible chemical attack by Saddam Hussein, a new report again shows that Americans face danger from their Army merely storing or even destroying such weapons.
And Tooele Army Depot has the largest cache - 42.3 percent of the nation's total - and will have the largest plant of eight in the country to destroy older, deteriorating weapons.The Army just released a draft environmental impact statement evaluating another proposed chemical arms destruction plant at Anniston Army Depot, Ala. It said that plant should be safe as long as no accidents occur.
But it said remotely possible accidents at the Alabama plant, such as a fire caused by an earthquake hitting while the plant is destroying land mines filled with nerve gas, could kill more than 2,300 people in the surrounding area.
But it said merely continuing to store deteriorating weapons that Congress wants destroyed by the end of the decade is even more dangerous. Remotely possible storage accidents - such as an airplane crashing into a storage area - could kill more than 13,000 people around Anniston, it said.
The Army released a similar study about Tooele last year. It also concluded that residents off base would face no danger from the chemical arms destruction plant now under construction there as long as no accidents occur.
But a remotely possible accident at Tooele - such as fire that might be caused by an earthquake hitting during land mine destruction - could kill up to 2,040, and spread nerve gas up to 31 miles from the Rush Valley plant.
But the study also said not destroying the arms is more dangerous. A storage accident such as a plane crash into a Tooele storage area could kill 30,400 people and spread nerve gas 62 miles.
A Deseret News investigation in 1989 revealed that a small pilot plant at Tooele - which developed the destruction process to be used by newer plants - had eight accidents between 1983 and 1987 that allowed nerve gas to escape in quantities up to 73 times greater than the legal hourly limit.
The Army studies have said that process continues to be improved.